I wish that I had stumbled across a post like this when I was applying for university last year. If I could re-wind time, I don't think I'd change a single thing. I made the wrong decision applying for university the first time around. I applied for Fashion Journalism, getting into London College of Fashion, only to turn my space down. It was the hardest thing I'd had to do in my life so far. What came next wasn't any easier.
Petrified of falling into a slump on a potential 'gap year', I went through the UCAS process of 'clearing'. I decided to apply for 'English Literature' at a near-by university with a high reputation. I was accepted that day. Then, cue unforeseen events, including finding myself in hospital the week I was due to start my university adventure. Then cue contemplation of my whole life as a result.
That's to summarise it anyway. But I wouldn't change a thing.
I made those mistakes. I made those wrong decisions and if it weren't for following those wrong paths, I wouldn't have made the decision I have made now. I researched uni's as thoroughly as a detective at the scene of a murder. I researched the areas, the rankings and the course details to the last punctuation mark. I knew that English Literature was going to be the course that I wanted to take, I just had to choose wisely where I wanted to go.
Fast forward to the present day: I re-applied after recovering from my hospital fiasco and planned my life out carefully this time.
I've now applied to universities that I love. I have my eye on one in particular that would be the 'dream'. I can't wait for my university adventure, because I am now confident I have chosen the right thing for me.
The purpose of this post is to throw out some opinions and experiences. Applying for university is a very scary time. Some of us choose to do it right away, some press the pause button and others not at all. I've pulled in my 'team' of friends as they share their honest experiences about university/gap year.
If you're questioning how to spend the next section of your life, I hope this helps. If not - sit back and enjoy some self-confessed, teenage accounts of life :).
Studying Geography at the World's top university.
Alicia is my oldest best friend of all time. We have grown up with each other and we have a shared love of all things Disney (and so much more). I am so proud of Alicia and all that she has achieved. She worked super hard (and continues to work even harder) to get to where she is now. She is loving every moment of it. If you want an opinion on university - you couldn't get a better fairytale ending. Alicia is the happiest I have ever seen her and I love hearing all about her uni tales and mischief.
She gets the balance of work and fun just right. Here is what she says about her first term of university.
What has uni offered you?
- The chance to meet lots of new and different people.
- The ease of trying out new hobbies and sports for low/no cost.
- A chance to leave your past behind and be who you want to be without influence.
- Expansion of knowledge about the subject you are passionate about.
- Having a routine - getting up and being productive!
What has uni taught you?
- It's taught me I can get up early and do things if it's what I really want to do (6am rowing!).
- It's also taught me budgeting for sure - more money awareness.
- I feel like I've generally developed more as a person even over the first term. I feel more confident!
- How to be good at skim reading.
- For those who are self-catered - cooking skills!
- My time management has improved!
- Making the most of every opportunity. People have different experiences at Uni and if you don't get involved and make an effort - you won't have the memories.
Studying Zoology in a top Russell Group university.
As I am typing, Chloe is currently doing revision for a million January exams. Maybe it's just her specific uni, but the amount of exams they've inflicted on her is more than excessive. At this moment in time, post Christmas slumping, I do not envy her one bit. But, she's enjoying her new uni life! A few exams won't knock this girl down! PS: I miss our school days where we danced to Miley Cyrus walking down the stairs...come home? ;)
What has uni offered you?
- I think uni gives you a sense of being on a path to the beginning of your future and career but it doesn't really teach you more about yourself.
- It gives you a sense of organisation in a way. You have a schedule to stick to (work etc.)
- It can allow you to realise that maybe what you're doing now is not for you and you can explore different courses and subjects (well, at my uni you can anyway.)
- It's not easy. You have to put in a lot of hard work if you want to do well.
What has uni taught you?
- I don't really know what it's taught me yet...I don't think I've experienced enough of it to know.
- It has made me more aware of money and spending. I am way better at budgeting!
- Living in my own place has made me way more independent that what I was before. (Not having Mum for doing my washing, the dishes or taking me shopping etc.)
One of the main things that Emily and I recognise as the main difference between uni V.S. a gap year, is structure. Gap years, unless you have planned them from start to finish, do not have a rigid structure. In reflection of that, neither will this section of the blog post. Here are the thoughts as they come...
Emily is one of the hardest working people I know. She has drive, enthusiasm and confidence (in all the best ways). Emily was my first friend as I joined sixth form and we did everything together at school as we took all the same subjects. She's a star, already landing a spot as the lead in London's Soho Theatre in the contemporary play, 'Love is the Revolution'. Here are Em's thoughts on her gap year so far. And, I don't think you'll disagree with me when I say, I think she's made a hell of a good start..
''There is room for spontaneity in a gap year..Finding out who you are.
I think you have to be quite productive and driven because it's really just as easy to sit around and feel like you aren't doing anything worth while.
It's really hard to watch your friends go away whilst you are possibly at home taking the riskier and maybe scarier option.
In my opinion, I have learnt things in this gap year that I could never have learnt at uni.
I have learnt how to run my own life, make hard decisions and learn who I am as a person. At the end of the day, I hope that will help me further down the line.
But, it's scary and you have to be prepared for days where you feel incredibly lost.
At the end of the day, it all depends on the type of person you are and what's best for you as an individual.
Oooh - and I'm not in debt! ''
And finally, me. Here are my thoughts on a gap year - honest, perhaps a little bit too long and addressed to the person 'gap year'. Yeah, makes a lot of sense - maybe my gap year has made me senile.
Dear Gap Year - you are my friend and my foe.
Firstly, you came into my life uninvited. You were never part of the plan. You've made me feel bad about myself at times because I don't know how to spend you. But, you've also made me feel free, youthful and in control of my life.
You have taught me things that I didn't know could be learnt. Mostly, these are things about myself. Some of them are happy things and some of them are sad - but I have learnt them nevertheless.
You've made me realise who my 'true' friends are. The ones who would drop everything just to come and wipe my tears away and the ones who would chuck me a box of kleenex and move on.
You have given me an incredible amount of time to spend with my family. You've given me hours of free time to spend with the people who share my genes - and I am thankful for that. My family are my world and you've paused life so that I can appreciate them just a little bit more.
You've given me a break from studying - I didn't ask for it but for some reason, 'fate' has given it to me. You've given me the opportunity to learn things about life rather than facts in a book.
You've made me age at least forty years and I'm sure you've given me my first pre-mature wrinkle.
You've taught me that crying is OK.
You've brought back my severe anxiety - something I try to hide from but you've thrown it in my face. So, you're teaching me the lesson of how to cope with it all over again.
You threw depression in my face and I gunned it down despite its apparent immortality.
Above all, you've also taught me that laughing is the best medicine (as gross as that sounds).
You've played with my confidence like a cat plays with a mouse. I'm the cat and my confidence the mouse. I'm trying desperately to catch it - knowing one day I will, but not just yet.
I can thank you for letting me realise that there is so much to life beyond the immediate. I am in control of my life, the people I spend it with and the events that occur.
You really taught me that life can be really 'unfair'. It's a game. It can be cruel and it's not so different from Super Mario Bro's. With one little slip, Mario - you've landed yourself in the boiling lava without your Princess prize.
Would I have experienced these things if I'd gone to uni? Definitely not.
I've been faced with thoughts I thought I wouldn't have to face until I was in my nineties.
Life can be short or it can be long.
It all depends how you spend each day.
So, little gap year -
I suppose you're practically perfect in every way.