Lara Johnsonwheeler

The decline of the Gap Year

The decline of the Gap Year
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When I say that I doubt that I will take a Gap Year, many adults are surprised. “Why”, they say, wide-eyed, “it's such a wonderful growing experience / important rite of passage / chance to save the world.” Hm. All this may be so, but I am by no means alone in dismissing a year spent abroad.

I can see many reasons for this. The first comes from the infamous video “Gap Yah.” Everyone has seen it. My grandmother has seen it. If you haven’t seen it, then you can find it here. In addition to being very funny and easily quotable, it does highlight a significant reason for the decline of the Gap Year. The Gap Year is now commonly known as the Gap Yah, and with this new branding comes an unshakeable social stigma. The stereotype of a Gap Yah student is one who lives in Fulham, has friends called Tarquin and undoubtedly attended the Feathers Ball or Capital VIP at some point in his/her youth. This character also expects full sponsorship from their parents in order to travel through the heart of India. This is not a stereotype many would wear happily.

So maybe this is why my peers are choosing not to do it.  Because they feel embarrassed by the indulgence of the whole thing. I think this has a lot to do with it, but mainly I blame four terrible little letters that constantly circle my mind like vultures waiting for a kill: UCAS. A UCAS admissions form now requires total justification about the reasoning for a Gap Year. And, as far as UCAS is concerned, if your ideal Gap Year doesn’t consist of taking part in numerous ethical duties or doing something that is directly linked to the subject you wish to read at University, your claim has no leg to stand on. So my UCAS-friendly option is cleaning the scum off the back of a whale with my toothbrush, whilst reading Ancient Greek.


Given the current obsession with bagging as many UCAS points as possible, it can come as no surprise that the last thing students want to do is to put all those hours of extra reading and community service to waste by tarnishing an application with the subject of a Gap Year. It is a common perception that when it comes to narrowing down applicants, Universities will cast aside deferred entry places in preference of those who want to start straight away.  And if I don’t get into a University, no question about it, the sky will fall in little pieces one-by-one upon my head, as it will for hundreds of others.

So I, like many savvy and forward thinking University applicants, am opting to dive straight into the pool of Higher Education in the hope that this tide will wash me onto the shore of opportunity. The end of the Gap Year is nigh.