The run up to results day is scary: did that paper go as badly as you thought??? What’s next??? What happens if you don’t get in??? and what happens if you don’t want to go through clearing???? What happens if you do get in and don’t want to go??? All the questions????
It’s ridiculous and before I even really get into this post, I want you to know that whatever happens on results day, you are brilliant and wonderful and smart. I promise. And I do hope that this helps any of you if you’re in a similar sort of head space.
My a-level results day wasn’t all that fun. It was stressful and upsetting and frustrating and all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole (or blanket cocoon) and cry. The only people that honestly know how upset I was that day are my parents. To cut a long story short, the subject I was expecting to do really, really well in didn’t go to plan and I was actually, 210% devastated.
The beauty of hindsight is that I can now look back on that day and go ‘well it wasn’t actually the end of the world’, mostly because when you get to university pretty much any qualification you get before that reaaallly doesn’t matter, but also because it meant that I could take a step back from education and work stuff out.
Gap years. Gahp Yahrs. Planned or unplanned, they’re actually not a year wasted.
I was faced with a lot of options on results day – picking another course at a different uni I hadn’t looked around, picking a similar course at a different uni in another country, remarks, resitting an entire year, resitting that subject, just quitting the whole education shebang and getting a job,
There was a lot of angst, speedy research, many a phone call and cup of tea were made over the clearing period. My parents were ace, but despite their encouragement and support, I just… didn’t feel like going somewhere new to do something I hadn’t really considered was a choice I wanted to make. My already wounded pride recoiled further at the idea of potentially resitting a year. I felt all around too young to be doing any of this, and my mind kept going back to a little leaflet I had in my room about gap years.
It wasn’t something that was every really discussed at school in depth. We had one assembly from one of the associations that focuses on gap year travel, but that was it. The assumption is: you do upper 6th, you sit exams, you get into uni. Or you don’t and get a job. There wasn’t anything about deferral or other options open to you if you don’t get your grades on results day – which sucks, and makes the whole clearing panic way, way worse.
So I made a list of the things I did and didn’t want at that moment in my life, and came to the conclusion that a gap year would be a really, really good idea. I didn’t want to spend money doing a degree I wasn’t invested in, in a place I didn’t like. I definitely didn’t want to ship myself off to a partner university in China or Australia if I felt too young to be shipping myself off to another city in the UK. All I wanted to do was sort my head out and regroup. I told my parents, they were good with the idea, and said that the only condition was that I had to get a job.
Taking a gap year was probably one of the best decisions of my life so far. I had a job, in retail, and it taught me how to deal with new situations, new people, and money. It was also the first time in a long, long time I had been genuinely happy. In that year, despite not jetting off to have wild adventures in Thailand or Africa on one of the travel plans, I grew up a lot. I earned money that I set aside for my year abroad, I resat (and did waaay better on) subjects as well as taking up a whole new a-level, and I reapplied to uni and got unconditional offers.
Gap years, whether you’re starting travel adventures that take you across the globe, or staying closer to home, can be a really good idea if you’re getting jittery about university for whatever reason. The buffer between school and that next step, a kind of plateau that makes things a little bit less scary.
Whatever happens on results day, there will be an option that feels right for you, and it being right for you is the most important thing.
I hope this is somewhat useful… what are your opinions on taking a gap year? Do any of you have gap year experience?