Thank you very much for your kind compliment regarding my blog, and thank you for submitting a question. And yes, you heard right: I am indeed currently on a gap year.
I would say that the advice I would give in response to this depends on the nature of the ‘various reasons’ that have led you to regret not deferring your offer. For instance, if it is a highly pressing health concern (e.g. severe anxiety, or some other chronic illness that makes prioritising your studies extremely difficult) I would highly recommend taking a year out. However, if your reasons are mainly because, say, you are comparing yourself to people you know who have chosen to take gap years and who are seemingly greatly benefitting from them, I would say that there are other ways to obtain similar benefits to them.
And I do think that taking a year out of institutionalised education is so very beneficial, in my own subjective opinion. I would enthusiastically recommend it to anyone – even though it was a fairly last-minute decision that I had made. But I really have (Alhamdulillah – all praise be to God and His Plan) benefitted from this year out (thus far) in a number of ways. My working in retail, for example, has led to my acquiring skills and wonderful experiences I really could not have garnered elsewhere. I have met extraordinary people, and have managed to network with people from a range of different occupational backgrounds. And it is so true what they say about how gap years are a great time to ‘find yourself’. I have never known myself as well as I have come to know myself within the last five months.
Ultimately, the amount that one can benefit from taking a year out is crucially dependent on one’s willingness to plan it well, and to find and seize beneficial opportunities. I must admit, these days I find myself in a state of exhaustion most days, because my weeks are filled with work shifts and events and meet-ups with various friends and family members and such. But these things, I think, are so important. The amount I am learning – and not for exams, but for my own satisfaction and benefit – and the positive experiences I am amassing and the great bonds that I am actively nurturing… I am glad I do not have a massive helping of university stress to add to this mix (…yet).
That being said, it is all a matter of perspective. I know some people who have also chosen to take a gap year who are stuck on what to do with all their time. Likewise, there are some people who are at university and who are, on the whole, not really benefitting from their experience because they are choosing to treat it as if it is just a necessary evil – a treacherous journey of sleep deprivation and exams that they must undertake if they are to secure decent jobs in the future.
Moreover, it is important to note that, if you are passionate about taking a year out – say, to travel, or to explore your identity and interests and such without having exams and assignments to worry about – you could potentially take this ‘gap’ year after university. In this time, you may wish to work a few days a week, save, and then do whatever you want, before officially entering the world of work.
And if your reasons for regret are centred on not enjoying the course you are currently studying, or not particularly liking the university you are at, know that it is absolutely never too late to change your mind – about anything in life. Ultimately, this is your life. Some people pursue a particular career path for decades and then one day wake up and decide to completely change things up and leave the job they have practically always worked at. Some people retake exams in middle age because they, too, want to change things up. And this is so okay. If your concern is the fear of losing £9250 by ‘dropping out’, well… in the long run, you probably would not resent this loss too much if it means that you do not come to hate your life and what you do every day. Moreover, you are more likely to make more money if you are passionate about what you do – so do bear that in mind.
I hope this response was of at least some help to you, Spongebob. And I wish you all the best.
Ask me a question (or tell me what’s on your mind) here
Sadia Ahmed, 2020