Dropping out of uni to take a gap year was the best thing I ever did

Forcing 18-year-olds to choose what they will do with the rest of the lives is madness


Last year I took a gap year. During my year, I did several things, like work at Hampton Court, waitress, travel, but also I did one major thing: I dropped out of university.

I’d been at The University Of Nottingham for about eight weeks when I made a very teary call to my parents telling them I wanted to come home. Two hours later I was speeding to St. Pancras, staring out the window contemplating dropping out. Three days later I left. What compelled me to leave, was not a burning desire to get black out drunk in Thailand, but rather the realisation that I was incredibly unhappy.

The reason for my unhappiness was simply because I had made choices to do something I thought would be good for my future rather than what I enjoyed.

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18-year-old me getting drunk at 9am after crying for two hours

Background: I had made my first choice Exeter to do Business, and my second choice Nottingham. When I didn’t get in to Exeter, I was distraught. I’d spent all summer planning my freshers outfits, and now I was basically looking at a black hole for my future.

The pressure and emotions at my sixth form were running high, and everyone was scrambling to find university numbers. The moment UCAS actually opened however, and I saw that I had been accepted into Nottingham, I was ecstatic. The pressure had been lifted off me and I didn’t have to make the decision about where to go, I could just go get drunk with my mates.

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Me three days after dropping out….I made a stress purchase with my loan and flew to Hong Kong to see my best mate

My issue here lies in the fact that the goal of clearing, and also of upper sixth, was not to make me happy, but rather to get me into the best university possible. Not once did any of teachers actually ask me: “What do you want to do?”, but instead I spent a year being told “Think about getting a good job in the future” or “If you want to make money you should do this degree.”

18-year-olds go from having to ask permission to leave the room, to making choices that will vastly affect the landscape of their future. How is that fair? How can we as a society ask people who are barely sure of themselves to choose what they want to do for the rest of their lives. I defy anyone who says that they are exactly the same person as they were when they made their choice about university to halfway through first year.

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Gap Yah me volunteering in North Thailand imparting some wisdom on some unsuspecting Thai children

My solution to this deeply unfair task? Make taking a gap year compulsory for every student who leaves school.

It will give students space to actually assess what they want to do. Instead of being thrown in at the deep end, and being asked to make the choice the moment they get back to school, they can look at their grades and decide what they want to do.

Did better than expected? Great apply to Oxbridge! Did worse than expected? Sorry, maybe look at somewhere other than LSE. The point is, this actually gives students time to make a choice. Secondly, it means students can earn money. Finally, it gives students a chance to grow. While on my gap year I became a completely different person. I will live up to the stereotype, and say that I did actually find myself on my gap year. Travelling was one of the best things I have ever done and it allowed me to do whatever the hell I wanted.

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I found myself thanks to Fat Buddha statues and t-shirts that say ‘good vibes’

Essentially, I think the current system is made by a bunch of people who never actually used this system and lived in a world where ABB could get you into Oxford.

This world doesn’t exist anymore, and the system should benefit students rather than put them at a disadvantage.