By Theano Dimopoulou, Second Year, Psychology in Education
School leavers should consider a gap year rather than University under the current uncertain circumstances.
Because of COVID-19 and the uncertainty that it entails, university has become a very anticlimactic experience. As a second-year university student, I have not had the chance to really live the full university experience.
I would say I was lucky to have one COVID-free term but knowing how much fun I could be having is not the best feeling. Travelling across Europe in order to pursue your chosen career and ending up back in your childhood home for almost the entire year is definitely not what I had in mind when I applied to university.
Being asked to make life changing choices about your future, both academically and career-wise at such a young age is a nerve wracking experience for many. Especially during COVID-19, where circumstances are even more uncertain than normal.
My advice to any student looking to apply to university this year, would be to take a gap year and gain more experience in the real world. That way students will become more mature individuals and will be able to handle university better.
I believe that the socialising and networking that take place at university play a major role later in life. COVID-19 has greatly limited these activities, so students leaving school should benefit from the uncertainty of COVID-19 and apply for remote internships or work experience wherever that is possible.
Take a gap year and gain more experience in the real world
However, it must be said that this advice is not limited to this year as many prospective students tend to focus perhaps a little to emphatically on educational achievement, forgetting the importance of real world experience.
Nevertheless, there are several other reasons why I would not recommend attending university this year. Financial stability and security are a significant concern for many students. Taking care of your finances and making sure you can support yourself is a life skill you need to learn quickly.
Student loans are going to place a severe dent in your financials, even before you consider living expenses. So, attending university during a global pandemic, where the level and quality of teaching has severely deteriorated and your access to resources is limited, might not be the best option. Financially, it simply does not make any sense.
Taking care of your finances and making sure you can support yourself is a life skill you need to learn
Humans are social animals and naturally seek the company of others. Whether a person is an introvert or an extrovert, everyone needs to socialize. Many university students face anxiety and loneliness during these challenging times.
In the beginning, the switch from face-to-face teaching to online learning was a fascinating new experience, but no one anticipated the devastating effects that this would have on our mental health.
Talking from personal experience, my sleep schedule has completely changed. The sudden free time as well as local restrictions, and early curfews has affected my sleep, both in terms of quality and regularity.
Being at home all day, trying to attend to classes online, and not being allowed to really socialize with anyone outside my support bubble has substantially affected my usual routine.
I find myself exhausted during the day even if I haven’t done any serious physical activity. My quality of sleep has definitely worsened, and for quite some time I thought I was the only one, but after speaking with other students, I realised a lot of them were feeling the same way.
The university stress that already exists, added on to the current ambiguity of the world definitely is not the best combination. So, if I had one thing to say to potential university students, it would be to take a break from education and enjoy life while taking in all the opportunity that a gap year can offer, allow time and see how COVID-19 will affect university life and learning.
Featured Image: Epigram / Jack Crockford
Would you recommend taking a gap year to prospective first year students?