Those of you living outside the UK may have missed the ‘media storm’ surrounding the woefully shrunken economy and the effect it’s having on University admissions this summer but for the Brits among us it’s been impossible to escape! According to sources,  applications to UK Universities are up by 250,000, but with 6000 fewer places available than last year it is believed that up to 200,000 British students may miss out on their places, despite having secured the grades they required.

Ultimately this means lots of tears and tantrums and a much higher than normal proportion of students forced to take the next year out to retake exams, reapply and generally reassess their lives. But for those who’ve been disappointed this year, take heed…your unexpected year off may just be a blessing in disguise!

Turn your time off into a constructive gap year and spend the next 15 months developing skills and gaining life experiences that will make you irresistible to admissions tutors and employers and open your eyes to a world of work and lifestyle choices you had never previously imagined.

From the point of view of a University admissions tutor a well planned gap year will demonstrate you possess the drive and determination to succeed at Uni, they understand that adventurous travels and experiences in the workplace will inform your opinions and ideas. You could even use your gap year to prove your passion for your chosen degree subject by engaging in relevant work experience or voluntary programmes. These all contribute to showing who and what you are all about and helping you to stand out of the crowd.

On another level though, a gap year involving travel and work prepares you for life at University better than any other experience. I thought it was instantly obvious in Freshers Week who had taken a gap year and who had come straight from school (and not just in the obvious ill-advised beard/tatoo/ethnic jewellery shit way!) and believe that generally those who’d done the former had a much more successful and well-rounded experience at University for it. Gappers make more socially active and adventurous students, tend to be more vocal and confident in their learning and are thought to be less likely to drop out after the first year!  In my own gap year I worked as a waitress and temped in a call centre before embarking on a six-month African volunteering adventure with The Leap and credit it for an amazing three years at University!

...by Christmas '10 you could be perched on a sand dune having the time of your life!

For those of you stuck becuase you’ve missed your place at University this year, I say: Turn misfortune into opportunity, take a leap and in a few months’ time you could be in Africa, Asia or South America with a team of new friends helping to conserve endangered animals, teaching children English or even building a new school or clinic for a community in need.