Is coming to University straight after A-Levels really the best option?


Don’t take it personally, but contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think flying the nest when the dust from results day has barely had a chance to settle is necessarily a good idea. Take it from me; I was once your wide-eyed, fresh-faced eighteen year old self.

I recognise the impulse, the borderline compulsion to get as far away from the confines of home as soon as is humanly possible but what difference does a year make, really? Instead, I suggest you get a terrible, prospect-less, misery-inducing job; put yourself at the mercy of a malevolent manager, so angry at their own disappointing lives that they live to see you suffer. I’d suggest waiting/waitressing if you’re a real masochist. Alternatively, you could travel, volunteer at a home for AIDS orphans in Madagascar, do a sponsored dog sled across the Arctic, live in a hammock in a rainforest. If you’re more of a sadist, paste all of your smug travelling pictures on Facebook and liberally apply the hashtag “blessed”. Even doing nothing for a year is a worthwhile use of your A-Levels, or at least a worthwhile use of “General Studies”.

I recognise the impulse, the borderline compulsion to get as far away from the confines of home

Not to deter this year’s freshers, especially once it’s too late, but I definitely think a gap between sixth-form/college and starting a degree is a good idea, although not necessarily an essential one. If you can survive an extra, voluntary year at home under parental surveillance, whilst working a job from hell, then it will make all-nighters in the library, drowning in reading, seem easy. There’s nothing like a year of life in the real world to make you appreciate the opportunity to act like an alcoholic with narcolepsy, whilst simultaneously basking in the glory of having a year to scrape a third without any serious consequences, something that requires a state of not even semi-consciousness. Also, any survival skills you pick up while living in a tent on the side of a mountain in the Himalayas for a year, would also make living through the winter, with a broken radiator in freezing student accommodation, much more manageable.

Besides, how many people actually have practical career goals, or experience in their field of interest, or even any experience of the real working world when starting as an undergraduate? Why must our careers start at twenty-one, if we’re going to have to keep working until we’re eighty, because we’re living to a hundred. Taking this factor into account, my calculations suggest we don’t need to even think about personal statements and UCAS until we’re gone thirty. If we’re being made to work longer, we should be allowed to be juvenile for longer as well. It’s only fair compensation for inheriting an economy that won’t let us retire until we’re being wheeled into work on a stretcher, shortly before we’re then wheeled back out in a box.

If you’re thinking tactically, why not buck the trend of having children later and later in life and have them whilst still relatively young? Take a couple of years out to fulfil your base instinct to procreate and then start to make your way in the world while your offspring are busy learning to thread pasta necklaces. Even if that puts a delay on things for five years, your working career will still be longer than those of most of our parents’ generation.

It is also often said that our university experiences, whilst undergraduates, mould us into the adults we eventually become, however unwillingly. But how about we arrive when we’re more adult and better equipped to mould our universities into the institutions we want them to be, as opposed to vice versa. We’re not fresh recruits to the army, there to be broken down by the establishment to then be built back up into their image of perfect privates. A higher level of maturity and confidence would make our “freshers experience” less likely to be about looking after the Bambi-like homesick kid, who’s never left their parents side before and only stopped being breast-fed last week.

If we’re being made to work longer, we should be allowed to be juvenile for longer as well

So, well done to those who have already had their ‘gap yah’ and have stockpiled a wealth of anecdotes about travelling across south-east Asia. Feel very smug – maybe your decision to wring out another year of life without responsibility was a wise one. Or maybe I’m just futilely trying to delay the influx of new freshers to Falmouth, jealous as I am of their freedom and negligible workload, I suppose torching the Tamar Bridge is always a potential back-up plan.