(Original post by ice_cube)
So your results are in, and its not worked out how you hoped and now a gap year beckons.
Gap years can be an amazing experience, help you be better prepared for reapplying, and help you to gain multiple skills that will be beneficial later in life.
And most importantly, you can have a lot of fun.
I ended up taking a spontaneous gap year in 2007 when I changed my mind on what subject I wanted to do, and reapplied. My parents were worried what would happen (much of this post involves responses for parents), I wasn’t too thrilled about being left behind by my friends, and the world of proper work was a scary place.
It ended up being the best year of my life, and I wouldn’t have changed a minute of it. I worked for 6 months, and then worked abroad in politics for a while. It was amazing. I met friends for life, learnt so much, and went off to university a much happier and more confident person.
There’s a little bit of advice in this opening post, give it a skim and see if it answers any questions. Everyone’s situation is different, and everyone has different aims of what they want to get out of their year out. If you want some help or ideas on what to do, how to get work experience, or how to just make the most of it post below, and the wonderful users of the Gap Year forum will see if we can help work out what to do. This may also be useful to explain to parents that its not the end of the world, and can end up being constructive.
Resits and reapplying
Try and organise these to be in the earliest sitting they can be. That way, you have the results available for reapplying, and can enjoy the rest of your year without worrying. Make sure you request any papers that you can, and stay in touch with your teachers to ensure you get the best support while not being at the school. Every school has a different process for how they deal with retakes. Also make sure you let the person who will be your referee know what is happening and when you are aiming to apply by.
Its more difficult to reapply when no one around you is (I struggled to keep track of deadlines when it wasn’t the favourite topic of conversation in the common room) so you need to make sure you are on the ball from the beginning, particularly if you are making an Oxbridge application, or medicine.
The popular option for many gap yah (sorry, had to be done) students is to take off and explore the world. All well and good, but not everyone has the financial support to be able to do that instantly (see below section). If you do decide to go off and see the world, have a good think about what you really want to go. Its worth looking at some gap year companies (there are numerous threads on these in the forum, some supportive, some less so) but also worth thinking about doing independently, either alone or with friends. There are advantages and disadvantages of both.
Travelling can be a great way of broadening your horizons, meeting new people, and giving a focus to the year. Working solidly for 6 months seems so much more appealing when the prospect of lying on a beach is at the end.
If you need to work to support yourself during the year, or want to save some for university, that doesn’t mean you need to rule out travelling completely. Even going for 2 months around Europe will still be a great experience.
A fairly good way of spending part, or all, of the year is in some form of gainful employment. This is useful in two ways. Firstly, it provides money, which is always useful, and makes everything that little bit more fun. Parents also rather like this bit.
Secondly, it comes in very useful after you graduate with that sticky business of actually getting a job. It doesn’t matter whether you work behind a bar, sit at a reception desk, or become an air hostess (someone I know did this, brilliant way to spend a year), having worked at some stage helps enormously. It also helps fund ways of keeping you entertained (see further down). I had three different jobs on my gap year, two in offices (one ok, one horrifically stressful) and also waitressed. I loved waitressing, met some great people, and ate a lot of free food.
It might not be possible to get a paying job that works towards your career goals or degree choice. However, being able to live at home rent free (I know not applicable to everyone) gives you a bit of freedom to do some unpaid work experience, without worrying about your landlord coming calling.
It might be possible to work one day a week in your chosen field (generally easier persuade someone to let you hang out every Friday than be there all the time), or be able to do a few weeks on a placement.
You also have the bonus of being able to get experience outside of university holiday times, when all your peers will be trying to scoop up everything they can get their hands on.
Making friends and staying sane
The first bit of your gap year can be difficult, particularly with facebook. All your friends seem to be off having fun, trying new things, and having a whale of a time.
There is no reason you can’t do the same. The good thing about a gap year, working and having a bit of spare cash, and no homework or revision, is that you can have a go at all the things you’ve always wanted to do. Always wanted to learn an instrument, tap dance, or rock climb? Go book some lessons. You might make some new friends, discover a new love, and it will stop you feeling so left out of everyone having a good time. If you are into creative stuff, see if the local amateur dramatics group need someone to do sound/lighting/warble/make costumes. Joining a sports team will introduce you to a whole new group of people, and probably social life.
Just because your friends have disappeared off to other parts of the country, doesn’t mean you cant see them. You can always pop up for the weekend and join in their fun and frolicks.
The most important thing is to remember that a gap year is what you make of it. Some of my friends worked in boring jobs, but didn’t make any effort to do anything new and ended up bored and depressed. Those who did have fun with new things had an awesome time, met loads of people and loved their time out of education.
So, what do you want to do with your year? Want advice on what to do to help with your future career? Scared its all going to be a big horrible mess? Let us help, post your questions below.