June 16, 2014

Should I take a Gap Year?

Hello Readers,

Today I'm going to be doing a little bit of a different post to what I usually do on here and I'm going to be talking about Gap years. I'll be talking about what I experienced during mine and hopefully giving relevant advice that will come in handy to people who are currently making this difficult decision. Now I'm not really sure on what the typical age is for the majority of my readers so I don't know how relevant this will be to some of you. However if it helps or is interesting to at least one person then that's all I can ask for! 

I'll start off by saying that I myself am currently on a gap year, I didn't choose to take a gap year as such as originally I was adamant that I was not going to go to university. I couldn't mentally picture myself being there, going to lectures, doing dissertations etc. I was sure university wasn't for me so I decided not to bother applying. It wasn't until some of my friends started going off to interviews and getting offers that a small part of me began to wish I was doing the same thing - it also didn't help that I had teachers and my mum telling me that I should apply and I was good enough to go to university despite what I initially thought.

I decided that instead of just disregarding their encouragement for me to go into higher education, I would bare it in mind for a few months whilst I took a "gap year". As college came to an end and Summer began, I decided to set myself goals for my gap year. I wanted to see what I could achieve and see if any of the experiences I went through would help me make up my mind about whether or not to go university at all. 

So that brings me to my first Gap Year tip;

1. Set yourself realistic goals.
It's all well and good saying you want to take a gap year to do other things but unless you sit down and plan what you want to achieve during your gap year, you'll just end up sitting around and before you know it the year will be over and you won't feel much better for it. I made myself a few simple goals, all which could be achievable if I worked hard enough. Most of them relate to photography as that's what I want to do but without actually sitting down and setting myself some goals I can almost guarantee that I would have wasted my time doing nothing.

 Thankfully I have achieved all of these tasks (apart from saving up, that starts now) I've built up my photography portfolio so much this year, both with my own personal work and client work. I worked in Topshop over Christmas and also managed to bag myself a little photography job at a little vintage beauty salon. I made a few very valuable contacts whilst living in Nottingham which will come in handy as that's where I will be studying for the next 3 years! I also managed to get some photography work published in an online magazine which was an absolute dream come true for me! 

2. Do something exciting! 
I know it's pretty predictable to turn around and say go travelling around the world but if it's what you want to do, do it! Do something different, go somewhere new, do something which challenges you to be more independent. For me that was moving out of my family home and moving to Nottingham with my boyfriend. It's something that was scary, exciting and challenging yet I don't regret it in the slightest. It's taught me some important life skills which I know will come in handy with uni. Now I'm not saying you have to move out of your family home, but maybe just doing something as simple as going on holiday with your friends or working abroad? Something that will teach you how to look after yourself and how to be responsible with money.

3. Gain some work experience.
I'm sure this pretty much goes without saying but jazzing up your CV a bit whilst you have the time will work wonders. It can be extremely difficult trying to find work these days so don't just expect to complete a 3 year uni course and find yourself in the dream job straight away. It's a highly competitive market and a degree doesn't necessarily improve your chances therefore it's crucial that you try your best to add to your resume and further improve your skills whilst you have the chance. Whether it's paid or unpaid work it will help you! Remember, volunteer work always looks great on your CV and who knows, maybe you'll find yourself in the dream job without having to go to university! 

4. Enjoy Yourself! 
You're finally free of the pressures of education so make sure you enjoy yourself! Spend time with friends, relax, take that dream holiday with your friends / family or find yourself a hobby and really throw yourself in to it. Having a hobby will come in handy whilst at Uni as there are lots of different social groups you can join, which ultimately means you'll be able to make friends with people who share similar interests to you. 

5. Explore Your Interests
Use your free time to explore your interests and really think about what it is exactly that you would like to go on and study. For example, I have an interest in fashion and after leaving college I began looking at possibly taking up a fashion styling course instead of photography - which was something I'd never even considered previously! I ruled it out in the end, but it was nice to look at my options and see the different career paths I could take.

6. University Isn't Everything
It's important to remember that University is not the be all and end all in life. Too many people these days are stuck in the mindset that you can't achieve anything without going to uni and that's not the case at all. Don't feel pressured to go to university just because everyone else is or because your parents want you to go. If you know 100% that it's not for you then don't push yourself into going as you'll only make yourself unhappy. 

A few months into my gap year I realised that I wanted to give university a go. There's still room for me to grow and develop my photography skills and that's exactly what I want to do. I've got a confirmed place at Nottingham Trent University and I can't wait to see what university life is like. I don't regret my gap year in the slightest as it helped teach me important life skills and also helped me tremendously when it came to making my decision about university. 

I hope this post has been helpful for anyone considering taking a gap year. I'd love to hear some feedback! 

I hope you're all well.

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