Rewind 12 months ago and I remember being in the same position as those in 6th year are now, juggling exams and contemplating their future. I was very much gearing towards the mocks, searching for courses and beginning to piece life together for after the leaving cert. Naturally I felt excited with the prospect of picking a course I wanted while remaining level headed knowing that I must do well in my exams first. I presumed that I’d follow the normal path of going to university once I got my results. However, a lot has changed since I opened the brown envelope with my results a mere four months ago.
Thinking about taking a gap year
I first got the notion of taking a year out around Spring but such thoughts were soon put to the back of my mind. There was only one destination I had in my mind and that was to start university in September. I set the goals for myself to achieve my preferable courses. But I didn’t get the points I wanted and didn’t accept the course that was offered to me having decided that a year out was right for me. Taking a gap year can be one of the best decisions you make providing you make the most of the time you have, something I certainly aspire to doing.
When I had a week to accept or leave my round one offer I thought long and hard about my options. When I analysed what was in front of me, a gap year seemed best suited as I didn’t do transition year and the opportunity to save money and travel proved to be an exciting one.
However, what I’m doing is not by chance, it’s because I wanted to push myself, not accept second best. It is important that you make the correct decision for you and only do something that only attracts your full interest. The same applies for taking a gap year as it’s something I certainly wouldn’t recommend unless you have a plan for the immediate future in mind.
Reaping the benefits of a gap year
The benefits that can be reaped are immense but only when a solid foundation is laid. This foundation may consist of a job, short term course or/and a mature commitment to go back to third level education. You often hear the word mature thrown around a lot but in the context of a gap year it is possibly a defining word. By taking time off you gain maturity in confidence, decision making and where your future may lie. All these traits are key attributes for a successful gap year.
One thing I have noticed in the past few months from being on a gap year is the value of experience over points. Now I’m on the outside, I can see how monotonous and old fashioned teaching is. The whole emphasis of a student achieving a certain amount of points to become what they want is nonsense and this is coming from someone who achieved over 500 points.
You may think that you need to know how calculus, grammar or organic chemistry works but none of these actually equip you to be successful in an interview for a job relating to these areas. The harsh reality is that nearly always an employer will hire somebody who has 3 years experience over a student who got 580 points and has never worked a day in their lives. Bill Walsh, the legendary former head coach of the 49ers once said , “Almost always, your road to victory goes through a place called failure”.
Taking a year out to think about your options isn't always a bad thing
There is no rule that states you must pursue third level education straight after secondary school. Parents, friends, family want you to go to college straight away which is perfectly normal as they want to see you succeed but taking a gap year, if used effectively, could be the best decision you make.
At the age of 18 you’ve everything to gain and little to lose. I am not actively promoting people to take a gap year rather I want to highlight it as a choice for you. If I had an offer for a course I wanted would I have taken it. Yes. Is taking a gap year my worst decision? Certainly not. At the moment I am currently doing a TEFL online course, learning how to drive, coaching, applying to work in the Gaeltacht next summer due to my fluency in Irish, and planning aninter-railing trip. Oh and did I mention, the experiences from a year out looks impressive on a CV!
If you need more convincing, then I recommend that you look at the Tedx talk below about a student discussing their gap year.