It’s so hard to disappoint your parents isn’t it? No matter how old you are, from not being able take those first few steps to not scoring that goal in the junior school championship, and on to not getting as good grades as Pete or Polly from down the road. Now you’re about to do it all over again by revealing your plans to defer your place and go to study at the University of Life.
The thought of it makes you feel sick. How will they react?
Here are a few ways you can introduce the idea to them. Pick your favourite based on which you think they’ll react best to. Only you know your parents well enough to choose.
Whichever one you choose, you need to stay calm. Clearly and carefully lay out your reasons, be firm, and listen to them when they talk. If it gets heated, suggest you all take 5 and come back. You’re in control now; show them how much of an adult you can be.
All I can do is tell you what to say, you’re going to have to actually say it. You can do it!
1. You want to volunteer and make the world a better place
Really lay it on thick here. Tell them how you feel so privileged to have had the upbringing, opportunities and chances that you have in life. Some people haven’t had that and you’d really like to help those less fortunate, in a different country.
You just want to give something back. Chances are this is the truth anyway. Work those heartstrings.
2. You want to get some life experience
If you’re planning on working and travelling the world in your year out, totally independently of any people or Bank of Mum and Dad finances, you’ve got some excellent fuel for the fire. Tell them you want to see what life is really like beyond the purse strings and it’s time you stood on your own two feet.
You want to see how you’ll fare in an unfamiliar environment, doing unfamiliar things. It’ll make you a better person. Honest.
Many young people who take a gap year or defer their university entry for a year come back more mature and ready to learn than those who go straight from school to university.
3. You want to make some money first
If your plans are to work while you travel, perhaps in Europe somewhere, tell them that you want to decrease the financial burden on you all. That you want to have a little pot of cash for when you start.
University in the UK is so expensive now. Even when I went 10 years ago I had three jobs on the go as well as a student loan, and my parents paid the accommodation. Paying for the fees pretty much broke me.
Tell them ‘my friend Vicky says…’ No need to reveal we’ve never actually met IRL. Arriving at university with the reassurance of some cash in the bank will help you to focus on your studies and to get as much as possible from the course.
4. You want to learn a language
If plans for your year of travel include a long stay somewhere to learn the language, tell them you want the world to open up to you. You want to be able to converse with different nationalities and you feel that this will help you further your career in your chosen field.
Tell them that you feel your language skills could make you a peacemaker in the future, as you’d like to work in a field that promotes global understanding and encourages people to be happier and more communicative. I mean, who could argue with that?
5. You want to know you’re making the right decision
If you want a year to travel to assess what you really want, there’s definitely a way to frame it that doesn’t make you sound like some self indulgent brat.
Remind them how they’d hate for you to start at university, with all the expense and emotional trauma that comes with it, and then not like it. You need some time out so you can go in all guns blazing ready to make the most of your university life.
Explain that you’re not sure of your place and field of study and you don’t want to end up somewhere deeply unhappy and unfulfilled all alone.
You want to travel, experience new things and people and see a different world before you commit to one that you’re not sure you even want.
6. You want to get some work experience
The way round this one kind of depends on your field of interest. If you want to do anything in the media, in film and production, in the creative arts, or in business then studying the field in your own time can be hugely valuable. Sometimes syllabuses can’t be written fast enough to keep up with the ever-changing landscape.
With all the work experience abroad programmes available a year out can be a very valuable time. Gaining work experience abroad is one of the best ways to travel and work at the same time.
The world is a very different place now to when your parents were your age. With the internet revolution education has changed a lot. You can learna lot online and although you won’t get any sort of qualification unless you study for it, YouTube tutorials and other online tools give a lot away, especially in the creative industries
You could never replace the experience and prestige of a degree with YouTube tutorials, but they can definitely help you to decide on what you want to do and supplement your studies.
Hoodwink your parents with internet jargon. You’re 18ish, you can do it.
7. You’re not ready yet
Are you one of those types who can turn on the water works at a moment’s notice? This is the angle for you.
Start off all calm and tell them you’re not going. If they press for more details say how you just don’t feel ready, and you’re worried about not making friends and not liking the course. How you’ll miss your parents too much. You don’t feel you can take all that on while doing a degree at the same time.
You’re going to have to be quite the masterful wordsmith to flip it around to the fact you’re going travelling by yourself though, unless you have a friend to go with you. Then this angle becomes a little more plausible.
Tell them you feel like you just need to chill and party after the stress of A Levels and you don’t want to do that at university, because when you go there you want to focus on your studies.
University costs thousands of pounds, and takes up a lot of your day – you’re just not ready for that kind of commitment yet.
8. You want to stand out
Unfortunately graduates are a dime a dozen these days. There are so many people with degrees that it’s not deemed special any more, but standard. You are not standard.
Tell your parents you’re taking a year out to work out how you can excel in life. How you can be brilliant and proud of yourself. You want to fulfil your potential and make sure that other people can see that you’re one of the special ones.
Show them your thoroughly thought out plan for excellence. A well-spent year out can elevate you above your peers when it comes to applications, jobs and personality in the future.
9. You want to be you
It’s tough being 16-19. You’re working out the world, what to do, and your place in it, all the while being told you need to decide what you’re going to do for the rest of your life.
You’ve had pressure from mum and dad, whether they meant it or not, of your family and even of your friends. If you’ve grown up around the same people forever, like I did, it can be hard to carve out that spot for you, for what you’re really like. You might not even know.
To tell your parents you want to take a year out to ‘find yourself’ may sound indulgent and slightly self obsessed, but depending on your life and upbringing it might be the very thing that you need to do. ‘Finding yourself’ is a cliché among the travel world for a reason: so many people do need to do it.
Your parents are just worried
The main worry for anyone deferring their university place for a year is that they won’t want to do it when they get back. No one wants to feel left behind, but the reality is, it’ll all be waiting for you when you come back. You need to find a way for both you and your parents to overcome those fears.
If you want to defer your entry, and you have a reason and a plan for why, then you should. You’re 18 now, this is your life and you know best.