The London Underground (“the tube”) has a notice painted at the edge of the platform that’s accompanied by a heads up announcement. Every time a train approaches a station you’re reminded to “mind the gap”. In other words, don’t slip on the edge of the platform and tumble into the subway car.
How’s that applicable to the “coming of age” generation of high school graduates looking into post-secondary college and university education?
In the U.K. students graduate from what is equivalent to a high school diploma with an Ordinary Level (O-level) certificate. It’s equivalent to a grade 11 education in Canada. Students intending to apply to university are then required to enroll in what are labelled as Advanced Level Qualification (A-Level) programs. They select a package of post-secondary programs that are focused on their preferred areas of study. The nature and type of program package and the grade point average (GPA) is utilized to qualify for entry into a university program. A normal A-Level program of study usually takes two year.
It's an intensive program of study. If a prospective A Level applicant is unsure of what courses or program of study they want to pursue during their A Level program or they want time think through whether they’re in an area that is aligned with their primary area of interest and doesn’t ignite their passion they can take a year off. During that year off they’re encouraged to explore an activity of some sort that’s of interest to them, career oriented international travel, or work with a non-governmental organization (NGO) and became involved with advocacy for a cause, etc. y
The gap year is integrated as an option in the A-Level program of studies in the U.K. Universities are supportive of the “gap” year and encourage prospective students to pursue it. It is oftentimes a value add to a university application, particularly if it’s to one of the elite Russel Group of Universities.
The Canadian university system doesn’t have a formal gap year option integrated into their application process. However, if a student makes an inquiry to a university about taking a gap year in conjunction with an application most universities will support it. As is the case in the U.K., it’s a value add to an application and can be a factor in adding value to the conventional grade point average (GPA).
A university education is a time consuming and expensive proposition. It’s estimated that approximately 30% of students in universities in the Maritime provinces drop out by the end of second year of study. In many instances its because they just don’t see how the university program of study they’re enrolled is associated with a career that’s of interest to them. University dropouts were prominent in every program I taught in at Seneca College. They weren’t failures. They were now on a pathway to success. They had enrolled in pre-college program registration counselling and had finally aligned their personal preference with a career. This was smart thinking.
Give a gap year some thought if you’re wondering what will ignite your passion for a career. My extensive mentoring in the U.K. university education system has made me conversant with gap year mentoring. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want more information.
John G. Kelly
Mentoring & Counselling