Firstly, we’d like to wish everyone the best for their A levels and Higher’s results. It’s been a really difficult period for students and the uncertainty around exam results, university places, travel plan and employment have understandably left many feeling in a state of limbo. However this is also a tie of opportunity, creativity and showing what you can do despite all the disruption.
To help you navigate your way over the next few weeks and months, consider the following points when thinking about what you will commit to:
1. I planned to go to university. Should I still go?
If your heart was and is still set on going to university to do a particular course and you get the results you need, then despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, we think it is worth continuing with that plan. Things will be different to what you might usually expect but you are committing to a three year study program (maybe more) and there will be many opportunities over that time to experience everything you hoped for. If despite all that you still want to take a gap year, then talk to your university of choice about a deferral. Have a loose plan in place for the next 12 months as they’ll be keen to know what you intend to do with your time.
If you planned to go to university but always felt a bit of unease about your choice of university or course, then consider your options once you get your results. You may find a different course and university that excites you much more but also consider deferring for a year and applying again if needed.
If you do not get the results you required, then you have options through clearing and also to defer a year, maybe ‘re-taking’ exams (we are not sure how that will look just yet) or simply re-applying to university with your known grades.
2. I wanted to take a gap year, should I still take one?
Yes, but if you have planned a gap year, then it is likely that elements of it have been disrupted. Your planned job may no longer be available, your family may have had a cut in household income, flights and programs have been cancelled and there may be travel bans in place for people from your country.
All that said, think hard before joining a university course earlier than you really wanted. If you weren’t ready before, why do you feel you are now? Go back to basics and ask yourself what you want out of the next 12 months and if university will meet those needs. Despite the gap year disruption, we can expect more flights and programs to open up early 2021. Some countries in Europe, Africa and South America are already open to travellers though clearly there may be occasional special measures put in place to manage any spikes in infection rates.
3. I want a gap year, what should I do next?
A gap year is always a challenge. It’s an opportunity for personal growth, reflection and to gain experience in work, volunteering, independent living and study and adventure. It builds cultural awareness, understanding yourself and others better and reflecting on what’s important. It is also hugely enjoyable and life-affirming.
However, it requires, effort, focus and planning. This doesn’t mean you have to fill every hour of every day with activity but you should have blocks of time committed to something to keep you on track and motivated. So, if your heart is now set on a gap year, this is what to do next:
- Get busy doing things, whether it’s applying for jobs, volunteering, doing something creative, learning new skills, taking exercise, helping out around the house or your community.
- Refresh or create a CV (to include the above) as you’ll need to be ready to apply for jobs locally and there will be lots of competition.
- Also take some time out to reflect and relax and take a break from screens and music-give your brain a rest!
- Research programs you may be interested in as part of travel overseas (or in the UK). Speak to several gap year and adventure travel companies about what is currently on offer, terms and conditions and get yourself on any waiting lists for the programs you are really interested in. There will be fewer overall because of country and flight restrictions so it’s worth doing now rather than leaving things to the last minute.
- If you plan some independent travel, you’ll need to do more research and keep an eye on updates about places you wish to visit. Be really careful of scammers and follow our guidelines, especially if you’re not planning to book anything through approved providers.
- Approved providers, should have good local knowledge, experience of being in the country, clear terms and conditions and disruption plans with excellent customer care.
- Get a calendar and work back month by month from September 2021 putting in the things you hope to have achieved or experienced in each one and therefore what actions you need to taken in previous months in order to achieve the goals. Include any admin you need to complete for university entry in 2021.
- Consider how you will fund everything: work up a budget, plan some fundraising activities, find paid work, part-time, temping or full-time.