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Take a year out to develop skills and research university value for money

Tuesday 17th August 2010

Youth and education charity, Raleigh, which runs leadership and volunteering expeditions for 17-24 year olds, is advising school leavers who don’t get offered a university place not to rush into clearing and instead take a constructive gap year to gain some real life experience and enhanced skills, and research what value for money a university can offer you.

With an average of 69 graduates applying for each graduate job and 63% of employers rating applicants’ ability to demonstrate certain competencies as a minimum selection criteria, 18-year olds need to be investing in skills development well beyond their academic studies if they are to stand out from their peers.

This year Raleigh has 900 17-24 year olds joining an expedition. More than a third are 18-year olds from the UK, taking a planned or unplanned gap year to broaden their horizons and grow in confidence and maturity before going to university. Another third of these are recent graduates from the UK who are looking to enhance their employability skills in an extremely competitive marketplace.

Head of Sales and Marketing, Rachel Collinson, says “Taking a constructive gap year before higher education, for example volunteering on an overseas expedition with Raleigh, will enable a young person to develop key life skills, global awareness and a can-do attitude. But a young person also needs to be focused on personal development and employability skills whilst at university. Asking questions about the range of extra-curricular activities available, the careers advice and training offered and the partnerships the university has in place with local organisations for providing work and volunteering experience will help a university applicant evaluate value for money.

Alice Poole didn’t get the A level results she needed for her chosen university so took an unplanned gap year. Alice joined Raleigh’s expedition in Borneo before starting at Exeter University in September 2009, “I have benefited from Raleigh in numerous ways. I grew the most in terms of confidence. I have become a much stronger individual mentally, and feel like I can achieve a lot more. I learnt about my talents and how to use them to the best of my ability, and also areas that I can improve on. My communication skills also improved greatly. Overall Raleigh has taught me key life skills and has set me up to achieve more from life as a whole and work out what area of future employment I might be interested in.

Academic grades will only get a graduate so far so those who don’t get offered their university place on A-level results day should use a year out to become clearer about their personal development rather than enter UCAS clearing.