A level results - Can she take an unplanned gap year?
Written by Ruth Mercer on 17/08/2012
Q. My daughter has a great set of results and has the grades she needs for university but, out of nowhere, she has suddenly decided that she wants to take a gap year. Isn’t it too late to make this decision ? What would happen to her university place? Perhaps it is just nerves? She has nothing in place in terms of work or travel – I want to be supportive but I don’t know where to start with offering her advice…
A. This is an issue that surfaces quite often at the time of A Level results, for various reasons. The most important point to try to understand is why your daughter is expressing the desire to take a GAP year. It may indeed be nerves or second thoughts, either about going to university or about going to university to study the course she originally applied for or about leaving home or one of several other reasons. It may be that she will be able to articulate her reasons to you, but if not I would suggest she should talk to someone at her school, her old form tutor, Head of Sixth or another person who she trusts. The school will also be able to advise her about contacting universities. Is it too late for her to change her mind? I’m tempted to say it is never too late; after all it is important that your daughter is confident about and committed to, the next step she takes in her life.
Depending upon the reasons she gives, the course of action she may need to take will vary.
- Perhaps she is having second thoughts about the course. Better to realise this now than half way through her degree. If she is certain she knows what she would rather do, it would be worth her contacting the university that made her original offer to see if they would be able to offer her a place on her preferred course either now or for a year’s time.
- If she wants to take up her original offer the following year rather than this year, she will need to contact her university department to find out what their attitude would be to her place being deferred to the following year. Obviously, being able to explain her reasons for seeking a deferral may be helpful. It is clearly essential that these discussions take place so that your daughter is aware of her options. UCAS too will need to know what decisions are made.
- If your daughter is having doubts about going to university at all, the reasons for this should be carefully explored. Is she worried about the financial burden she will be incurring? Is she reluctant to spend a further 3+years studying? It is important that your daughter goes to university for the most valid reasons and not because she feels she ought to do so or because not to do so will let you down. Perhaps she needs to talk to someone who is already at university who can explain what the reality is like. Perhaps she simply needs reassurance that she will not only be able to cope with this new stage in her life but also that she will enjoy it and will achieve more as a result of this experience. Perhaps she is not fully aware of the repayment terms of her future loans. Whatever the reasons, talking them through and considering the options available could be what she needs to enable her to feel confident about taking up her place.
If she does decide to take a GAP year prior to going to university, she will need to be clear about what, if anything, she will need to do to secure her university place for a year’s time and make sure that she follows the advice of her university and UCAS. If she needs to make a further application, her school will be used to helping PQA (Post Qualification Applicants) to complete their UCAS forms and she will need to follow their advice and meet their deadlines. Being in the UK for this can be useful and possibly essential.
If the GAP year is to be productive she will need to consider carefully how she is going to spend her year and how she will fund it. Perhaps your daughter has clear ideas about this already but if not she should decide upon a plan of action soon and then work out how she can best achieve this. I don’t believe it is too late to put these plans into place successfully after the results come out, after all there are many examples every year of students taking GAP years as a result of achieving better or worse results than they had anticipated or because they have had different thoughts about why, when and where they want to go to university. There are several organizations that specialise in helping young people find volunteering and other opportunities for their GAP years who will be more than willing to offer suggestions and it is likely that your daughter’s school will also be able to tell her what girls in previous years have done. However, I do think it is important that she takes responsibility for sorting out her plans rather than having an expectation that you will do it for her!
Making time to listen to your daughter calmly and challenging her to think seriously and carefully about the decisions she is considering are the best forms of support that parents and school can give her at this important stage in her life.