For many Year 13 students, the months to follow, and those that have passed recently, have been a source of great stress and immense excitement. The prospect of moving on to the next stage of life is one that brings a range of possibilities and emotions, a confusing mix of eagerness and dread. Mock exams and revision are enough to exert pressure on anyone, but this is worsened by university choices, personal statements, and deadlines. 

For some students, however, their plans differ from the majority. These few are opting for a gap year, in which they have the freedom to use their time as they wish before they go to university. This can be to travel, to gain job experience to enhance their CV, to partake in part-time courses or other studies, to volunteer, to think more about plans for the future, or even to have a break from academics.  

When talking to gap year students myself, it became clear that their experiences differ from those going straight to university. One student I spoke to, Alishba Adil, told me, “I feel like I can focus more on my actual exams rather than worrying about my predicted grades and UCAS deadlines.” For Alishba, a gap year is an opportunity that she wants to utilize and a chance to gain some clarity on what she would like to pursue.  

“I want to take a gap year in order to help decide what I’d like to do at university, as well as for health reasons,” she said. She also added that, “After A-levels, I want to focus on a mixture of work experience alongside a job to save up.”  

"School pushes university onto students, and they don’t want to risk losing momentum after GCSEs and A-levels. They can be under the impression that once they stop studying, they won’t go back.” 

Despite its benefits and increasing popularity, a gap year is not considered by most students, and is sometimes viewed as leaving much uncertainty. Nevertheless, it can be a valuable experience to both grow as a person and gain life experience. Alishba expressed that she would still receive the same help in applying to university next year as she would if she had gone this year, and that she was pleased with her choice and excited for the year ahead.