Having missed the grades he needed to get into his first choice university, he set about ringing up alternatives until he got a place at a wicked uni doing the course he had always planned. Tom then decided to defer his entry and set off on the biggest adventure of his life, travelling through Oz, New Zealand and South East Asia, on his first gap year.
After many a skydive, bungy jump and a brush with a few monkeys, he went to uni and enjoyed the delights of Manchester and Economics to the full. Since then, he’s travelled over the world, written books about gap years and set up this very successful site – so who says that missing your grades is the worst thing that could happen to you!?
Here, Tom answers your questions about clearing, deferring entry and about options for your gap year…
“How did your parents react when you’d been through clearing and decided to defer?” – Liza
Well they didn’t know to start with. I just told them that I had a place at uni – Manchester – and they were really chuffed, as I was struggling to get into any Economics courses with BBD. However, unknown to them I had actually deferred the entry about 10 minutes after I got the place! When I plucked up the courage to tell the folks, my mum was happy as she knew I wanted to take a gap year but my dad blew a gasket – twice…
“Any tips for dealing with parents once you’ve decided to defer?” – Laird
My top tip is to prepare a plan and know what you’re talking about when you come to the same situation. I was reluctant to get all of the leftover accommodation and other stuff that would ultimately cost me money and make me less happy at uni. To be fair, my dad did listen and then supported me wholeheartedly. He also donated towards my trip, which helped the cash that I was raising at McDonalds. I think once he saw how hard I was working for the cash he saw the good it was doing me – I grew up a bit.
Also, you tend to forget that your parents have a plan too – I was the last of three brothers, so my dad was looking to retire and stop paying for us. I had just extended his plans for one year… without asking. It’s a two way street, so the best advice I can give from my own experience is:
Make sure you have a plan. Talk your parents through that plan. Find out what their issues are and try and find suitable middle ground. Going head-to-head never works!
“I’m taking a gap year and I’m worried that if I miss my grades I’ll have to spend it doing retakes. What do you think I should do?” – Jo
Be careful about resitting – you might be chasing grades that you might not get or need. Find out what you will need to get into your chosen uni next year and then ask yourself if you could really achieve it with resits.
Travelling can wait. Just take your time with your decision and make sure it’s the right one for you – not your parents or anyone else. At the end of the day, a gap year is always going to be there!
“My parents want me to study chemistry – a solid subject they say – but I want to do media studies so I can become a journalist. Any advice?” – Rochelle
The big thing you need to consider is this: you are about to commit yourself to about £30,000 worth of debt, and that’s a lot of money for something you don’t want to do or won’t enjoy!
If you don’t know what you want to do or why you want to do it and have no game plan for what to do after you get this piece of paper in your hand… that’s a huge waste of three years. The bad news is that there isn’t a golden egg at the end of the line for all graduates. Tens of thousands of graduates don’t find the job they want, so you need to think seriously about this next stage. Why not spend some time getting some work experience, talk to journalists and chemists about their careers, and then you can make an informed choice that suits you?
One thing that we’ve found at gapyear.com is that taking time out to travel can give perspective on what’s important – you might find if you travel you’ll think about it more and then the decision will become clear.
“I am really stuck – I want to go to uni but don’t know what to study at all…” – Stu
Spend some time thinking about the subjects you like which you may be able to get into with your grades. Think about what sort of career you would like to go into and what degree might help you get there. Talk to the careers advisers at your school or college. If you have time, get as much work experience as possible. Once you’ve done all this, sit down with your parents and discuss it. You must have some idea where you see yourself in 10 years: think about how you are going to get there and that should help make the decision for you.
“I am off to uni next year after deferring my entry – how would you recommend I spend my next year wisely?” – Helen
I would say to take a year to get work experience in all sorts of fields that you may be interested in. See what floats your boat and learn more about what you like and what you don’t. Get a job to fund yourself through that year and uni – part-time work should be enough to keep your head above water if your parents don’t charge you rent (work hard on this!). Then with some of the money you save up do some of the travel that you want to do – it will broaden your mind and give you amazing memories. Also consider a volunteer placement – there are some amazing things out there and funding is easy to get if you have time to fundraise. Good luck!
If you want more information on clearing and what to do next, you’re in luck, we’ve got a whole section on clearing, so make sure you head there for more advice.
Want to know more about clearing? We’ve got the covered too – check out the facts about clearing.
Don’t know what a gap year is? Easy – make sure you read ‘What is a Gap Year?’
Also, if you’ve got any questions then make sure you jump onto the message boards! Our gappers will always help out with anything and everything!