Written by Jenny McWhirter on 05 / 07 / 2018
Gap Year Advice
So… you’re keen on a gap year, perhaps you’ve heard friends talking about it, perhaps you’ve been enticed by Instagram or maybe you’re just sick of school and want to take a well-earned break before heading to university.
Whatever your reasons it’s a great opportunity but before packing your bags and jetting off, there are a couple of people that often need persuading of why this is the best idea you’ve ever had. The two key decision players you need on board for any successful gap year are your parents and your university.
Ultimately do not think of these decision makers as barriers but this is all part of the gap year experience, hey it’s a chance to hone your marketing and sales experience as you market yourself to your potential university and sell your gap year to your parents.
So, below are my top tips on how to get them on side…
Neurological studies have measured and tracked the benefits of a gap
year for brain function. They’ve found that a break from education at
18/19 allows the brain to undergo crucial structural changes that
support higher order functioning – in normal speak that means it gives
you time to mature and when you return to study your brain will work
more effectively at a higher level – much needed in a university
Ultimately many universities and colleges are on side with the idea, UCAS have said “The benefits of a well-structured year out are now widely recognised by universities and colleges and cannot fail to stand you in good stead in later life”. This said it is not a guarantee of a place and the key is to use your time wisely.
Whether you’re applying before getting your grades or after, your personal statement is the time to really boast about your gap year. You should talk about your intended plans, even if it’s not all finalised, give the admissions tutor an idea of what you’re planning to do with your gap year and what you hope to gain from it.
If you’re applying for a more vocational course such as medicine, law, veterinary medicine, business management and the likes then ensure to spend at least part of your gap year gaining relevant experience.
If you’re applying for more general subjects then there are lots of skills such as interpersonal, communication, team work that you can gain from volunteering experiences abroad. It’ll also be a chance for you to mature and be sure of your motivation to study a certain subject.
If you get across in your personal statement, the benefits that you will gain and highlight that you’re not just going to spend it lounging on a beach in Thailand then you’ll be on to a winner.
Now for possibly the more difficult of the two...
First thing to say here is try to get into their mind set, it’s a big step for you but it’s also going to big a massive step for them, they will have their concerns and like any good salesperson you need to listen to these and then you will be able to address them and ultimately provide a sales pitch that convinces.
A few common concerns are:
Who’s going to pay for this? How much will it cost? These are common questions and ultimately you need to have the answers rather than relying on the bank of mum and dad. A gap year is a great chance to gain financial responsibility, something parents will be very pleased with. To put their minds at rest, make a gap year budget and then make sure you to stick to it.
Financially university and college can be a huge investment for parents and therefore highlighting that by taking a gap year you want to become more mature, ensure that your passion for your subject is what you want to go on and do and this will ultimately reduce the investment your parents need to make – not spending one year in Classics only to decide Classics really doesn’t float your boat.
Parents can worry if you take a year now will you just become a beach bum and never return. Plan your university return into your year, if you’ve applied for deferred place then great, if you plan on applying in your gap year, tell your parents, let them know how you’ll juggle your applications and gap year plans. Either way having university there then allows you to have a set amount of gap year time at no risk one year will fall into another and another…
It’s also worth noting here that most often university students that have taken a gap year will gain better results than if they haven’t taken the break.
The fear of falling behind, a concern for parents and students alike. Here the question is behind what? You will gain experience in a different way and similarly to the skills highlighted to give to universities these can be highlighted to mum and dad. Looking towards your future, something parents will always be thinking about, take a read of how a gap year can help your future career.
With the rise of social media, a gap year especially travelling to remote places, can give you a chance to social media detox. Something let's face it, we all could do with. Whilst your year will then all be a year below you, the benefits you will gain will be priceless and definitely worth being one year older...in the grand scheme of things, what is a year.
A big one for parents, you’re headed off to potentially some dangerous areas most likely to do some crazy things. The best way to help ease the concern is to keep your parents in the loop.
If you’re planning to do a program or project, allow your parents to talk with the company to ask their questions, some places will have parent advice – link them to it to make it easy for them to find frequently asked questions.
If you’re heading off with some friends, put your parents in touch with their parents and most importantly keep them up to date with your plans and what you’re going to do when. This will help put their minds at rest. Perhaps even set some communication parameters in place. When I was on my gap year I had to let mum know that I was alive every 3 weeks, the rule was if I hadn’t been in touch in 3 weeks she’d start to worry.
These little strategies will allow your parents to know that you’ve thought their concerns through and you’re approaching this with maturity.
Yes aside from worrying about you, your parents are ultimately going to be slightly worried that they’ll just have you hanging around not doing much and living off them. So easiest way to avoid this (and lets face it no one really wants to spend a year scrolling Instagram, playing video games or stumbling back to your parents blind drunk) give them your structured plan, let them know what you’re thinking of doing and how you will split your time.
Struggling to get your plan together? Pop your name and email below and our trusty gap year guide is yours it will take you through all you need to know and get you gap year ready.
So if you can address some of these concerns of your parents and talk confidently in personal statements and interviews about the benefits you should have no problem in convincing decision makers that your year out is worth it.
And if you manage to convince both parties and head off on your dream trip, marketing and sales experience could definitely find it’s way on to your CV….
on 05 / 07 / 2018