Is it ever a BAD idea to have a gap year?

(27 Posts)
Poppledopple Sun 07-Aug-16 16:49:18

DS might defer his 2016 place due to recovery from a serious accident. We are hoping if he gets the grades uni might let him defer. Obviously it wasnt planned and he was looking forward to going this Sept (he still might depends how his recovery goes) - he is all over the place emotionally atm as the accident has scuppered all his post A level travel plans and he has been in hospital and now housebound (EVERYONE is away now - so he is v lonely). We suggested that he take a year out to have some fun, travel, get some space - he is trying to think this all through but struggling to make a decision as he was all set to flee the nest in Sept. None of his mates are taking a year out - although he has quite a few friends in the year below so they will all still be around. I think it would good for him but wondered if there were any downsides to taking a year out?

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scaredofthecity Sun 07-Aug-16 16:54:03

I had a nasty accident in my first year and went back to uni too soon and really struggled. In the end I dropped out. Had I had my time again I would have deferred.
Uni is hard and you need to be in the best possible health.

Poppledopple Sun 07-Aug-16 17:06:28

Thanks scared for sharing your story - I am so sorry that happened to you and you dropped out. He is house bound until 2nd Sept - then was going to try to shoe horn in a gentle break before getting to Uni for 16th - his course is full on practical and creative - something he is passionate about - but demanding in terms of contact time. I really want him to go and make the most of it - but he will not be physically 100% by then and his mood is slowly deteriorating right now - worried that might get worse if he really wants to go and felt that he had missed out on uni as well as everything else.

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gettingtherequickly Sun 07-Aug-16 17:13:02

No, I think gap years are useful, depending on what is done the person can mature, learn some life skills and potentially get good job experience.

Clutteredmess Sun 07-Aug-16 17:17:44

It sounds as if a gap year would give him time to recover - DD found the first term exhausting - physically and mentally- so I imagine it could be difficult if you're not 100% fit. Could he spend a year doing something connected with his course? My only concern would be if he wasn't working or travelling he could end up feeling lonely and isolated if all his friends are at uni.

Mumoftwoyoungkids Sun 07-Aug-16 17:23:01

Not advised for maths as once you get out of the habit of doing maths it is hard to get back in.

There may be other subject like that but maths / engineering (which has a mild preference for a relevant gap year) are all I know about.

Oblomov16 Sun 07-Aug-16 17:27:50

Yes I took a gap year and the best time EVER!!
He could go travelling later in the year, but right now he needs to be at home to recover, so a gap year seems like a very good solution.


Milliways Sun 07-Aug-16 18:18:57

Was going to say same as Mumwithtwoyongkids - DS was advised not to consider a gap year when he applied for his Maths courses, but unless your DS is doing something along those lines then it sounds like a gap year would be really beneficial for him.

haybott Sun 07-Aug-16 19:41:56

As an academic in maths, I would say that gap years for maths are not really a big deal, one way or another. Some Oxbridge colleges aren't particularly keen on them (so check before choosing colleges) but pretty much everyone else will give an offer for maths if you have the right profile and predicted grades, regardless of whether you are taking a gap year or not.

It's somehow an urban myth that gap years for maths are a big no, and one which is perpetuated by sixth forms.

BTW a number of highly respected maths courses such as Bath do a year in employment part way through. Again it's really not a big deal that they stop doing maths for a year - when they come back from their employment year, students have a very mature attitude (having worked 9 to 5!) and pick up their maths very easily.

Needmoresleep Sun 07-Aug-16 21:28:47

Poppledopple, my daughter had a bad accident last summer which left a legacy of anxiety, not helped by the fact her dad was seriously ill not long after. She somehow got her UCAS form in for an October deadline and then seemed to cope OK with Yr 13 demands, though three course works and three University interviews all within two weeks in March was a challenge.

It was interesting. Just before Easter she got an offer from her top choice University, but was curiously flat. She did was emotionally drained, and I was not surprised when she then decided she wanted a gap year. Late deferments are not normally granted for her course, but they kindly replied almost straight away, agreeing. Physically she is fine, but she needs to be ready to go to University, and at the moment she is not. She will be once she has had a chance to spend time away from the pressure of exams. She will work a ski season which I think will be perfect and will enable her to gain a different range of useful skills, and that with some added maturity will help ensure she is in a good position when she finally starts. .

Mumoftwoyoungkids Sun 07-Aug-16 22:15:12


Trying to remember who it was who told me. (And wondering if I could have had a happy year backpacking somewhere exciting.)

LockedOutOfMN Sun 07-Aug-16 22:28:12

Hi again, Popple, the only downside I can think of is that the students get out of the habit of studying. It really depends on what they're doing during their gap year. In your son's circumstance, I think a gap year sounds sensible as he can recover fully from his accident and also celebrate finishing school, with fun and relaxation and travel, in the way that he hasn't been able to this summer. As we discussed on another thread, come Results Day, his chosen university MAY ask you to email or fax them medical evidence or even get a doctor's recommendation that your son take a gap year as his original application didn't mention it. Good luck to you both on results day, and to your son with his recovery.

FoggyBottom Mon 08-Aug-16 09:45:13

I was very ill before taking my A Levels. I was only 16 at the time, so taking a year out to recover fully, and just decompress was a no-brainer. Even after a year working & sleeping, I still needed to be careful throughout my first year.

I think that's also the case in your DS's position. If he's not fit enough for university in September, then it's better he defers. If he gets the grades required, there shouldn't be an issue in deferring in August.

If I ruled the world, a gap year would be compulsory. I need my undergrads to want to be at university more than they want to do anything else. I don't want to teach those who are there because it's expected, or 'normal' or their parents forced them, or they couldn't think of anything else to do. Far better to spend a year working, even in a NMW job, and see what they might do with that.

They also need to get off the exams/assessment treadmill.

BrendaFurlong Mon 08-Aug-16 21:24:46

I had an enforced gap year because I wasn't 18, and my university was very reluctant to have under 18s in residence. I was too poor to go travelling so worked in a series of jobs in shops, local college, etc. I had quite a lot of fun, learned to drive, bought a car, and made new friends. I struggled for the first term because I'd got out of the habit of sustained critical thinking, but overall the experience was fine.

Poppledopple Mon 08-Aug-16 21:45:53

Thanks for sharing all of your advice and experiences. As the days go by it is becoming more and more apparent that he is not in great shape. He is also v young for his year - only turned 18 last week. He is doing architecture so not a situation where he can get out of practice as not done it before and if anything can spend the year off immersing himself in it. He also could learn to drive (once he can get out if bed for any length of time) travel, relax and have the fun he has missed out on whilst being in severe debilitating pain for last 6 months. I just hope that he takes this advice positively and not see it as another thing disrupted following the accident. Worst case scenario is if he hasn't pulled off the grades and has to spend the year resitting. That would be hell....

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Leeds2 Mon 08-Aug-16 21:51:02

Good Luck to your DS, Popple. It sounds like a gap year would be the best thing for him.

Has he actually asked to defer? My DD did recently. Her firm was fine about it, her insurance said no as they already had too many deferrals!

Poppledopple Mon 08-Aug-16 22:04:56

No he hasn't asked yet - we only started thinking about deferring at the weekend as the recovery is much tougher that he thought and uni starts in 5 weeks. Thought he should wait until results day to see what negotiating position he is in depending on results? Not sure if that is the right thing to do now or not? We are thinking if results are not great he might have more chance of being accepted this year and then we could defer on medical grounds - where as if we ask to defer now and grades are not great they might just reject and ask him to reapply and resit. What do you think?

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Needmoresleep Mon 08-Aug-16 22:10:14

Popple, really dont underestimate how long it takes to get over something. A year later DD is starting to regain her equilibrium, but I am very glad she is not having to gear up to start a demanding course in September. Instead she seems to be planning a schedule of visiting friends and gastecrashing various freshers weeks. (From Exeter to Edinburgh, so I hope her British geography improves.) Luckily several of her friends are likely to be around and a surprising number are going to local (London) Universities. She has a casual part time job which she will be able to pick up when she is in London, will remain part of her sports club, and has kept up her volunteering. It was important that she had some structure both in the short term and over the yeasr, though not to the extent that it would become pressure.

Also don't be surprised if the stress of supporting a DC though illness and then exams, hits you hard and when you least expect it.

On resits, if you can afford it, and the student is motivated, tutorial colleges can be very effective. Places like MPW offer split year courses so you do a couyple of months, so they are in a good position to write a UCAS refrerence, take some gap months, and then go back to complete the syllabus and sit the exams.

Poppledopple Mon 08-Aug-16 22:50:34

Needmoresleep - yes I think that we have underestimated the time needed for recovery mentally as well as physically - think that there is a bit of PTSD going on (for all of us - I feel like I have been hit by a bus) - had a really bad day with him emotionally yesterday and for some reason severe pain returned and we had to dig out the heavy duty drugs - brighter today tho. Half of his friends and his girlfriend are in the year below so will be around and I imagine that he would have a great time scooting off to visit all his mates at diff uni at weekends. I will have a look at crammers but I really hope that we don't have to endure that as well. Would be a shame if great GCSE results, great AS results, great predictions, great ref and great PS as well as x5 great portfolio submissions all resulting in offers (one offer lower that standard as the reviewed his submission as exceptional) would count for nothing if he slipped his grades because he took his exams drugged up for months in crippling pain after hideous accident - but we are v v grateful that he is still here and in one piece because he so nearly was nt.

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eatyourveg Thu 11-Aug-16 20:53:18

ds3 only decided on a gap year about 6 weeks ago - his uni were happy to let him do it, he didn't have his results at that point but has since got them through so his offer for sept 17 is now unconditional.

As it is so near to results day I would wait until the results are in before contacting them to ask for a deferment. when ds1's firm offer came in it gave him 3 options accept reject or defer - he deferred at that point only deciding thats what he wanted a few hours beforehand - he then changed his mind about the place during his gap year, applied to a much better uni through clearing, got released from the first place and has just graduated.

I wouldn't be in a rush for anything - let your ds have all the time he needs to get back to his usual self and this time next year he will hopefully be ready and raring to go.

Lomaamina Sat 13-Aug-16 14:30:40

From what I know about first year architecture, you'd be well advised to wait till 100% fit. It's high pressured, full on long nights. It's also the sort of thing a gap year is made for, to travel, sketch, perhaps do a stint interning in a local practice, learn computer coding, or CAD. If his chosen university is willing to say yes to the deferral (and I'd emphasise the fitness to study aspect), perhaps they could advise on how best to use the year.

Poppledopple Sat 13-Aug-16 15:42:51

Thank you Lomaamina - yes we are thinking exactly like that - he couldnt cope physically and he really needs space mentally as he has been in chronic pain for nearly 6 months now - and although he is making good progress he will be far from 100% in 4 weeks time. Gap year will be good for long as it doesnt involve him re-siting - that would be soul destroying.

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Lomaamina Sat 13-Aug-16 16:53:12

Well I wish him all the best. It sounds like you all have been through the mill.

2016Blyton Sun 14-Aug-16 13:05:37

I think he should take the gap year but do it fiarly structured - loads and loads of unpaid internship at architect practices, travel to perhaps work at architectural practices abroad when he is up to it in say 6 months' time.

In other cases with no injuries gap years can mean distraction, falling in love, calling out of academics, never ever getting back, buggering up your life forever so I am not a great fan of them actually particularly for children who need a kick up the bottom to get anything done and are easily distracted.

Needmoresleep Sun 14-Aug-16 13:51:23

Blyton, given the level of investment University requires, isn't it better to make your mistakes during a gap year. Plenty of University first years will do exactly the same. Far better for a kid without focus to drift for a couple of years, having to take low paid jobs and learn a few life lessons, than to turn up on a course you are not sure you want to be on. Starting University later when you want to be there, has to be the better option.

I am not sure Universities are particularly good at giving kids kicks up the bottoms, its not their role.

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