Last month wasn’t just the start of a new era for many people at university, it also saw the opening of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) application process for sixth form students wishing to start university in 2014.

ucasPhoto: europorter.com

That dreaded bureaucratic machine is back and raring for the chance to bore thousands of new students. For them it is the beginning of repetitive open days, tedious conversations about which institutions they are applying to, a nerve racking wait for those universities to respond, and then the ridiculous choice of which university will be an ‘insurance’.

International students will be among the first to tell you that the UCAS system is actually a very simple one, especially when compared to some of our European counterparts. In Italy for example there is no official student loans company, in France you don’t get a choice on the institute that you go for and in America a personal statement must be written for every college that you apply to. All of this of course will offer no peace of mind to the brain-numbingly bored sixth formers filling out endless electronic forms.

However, there is a way to make our so called ‘simple’ system even simpler. It is possible to go about the UCAS system in a different order to most. Applying during a gap year after you have received your final grades is always an option. If all students waited and decided to take a gap year, they wouldarguably find UCAS a far less stressful experience.

Students on a gap year can work to save money for when they start university life, or do the equally typical Gap Year thing by travelling, working for a charity somewhere and returning with life changing stories after ‘finding themselves.’ Travel and ‘vountourism’ are commonly popular choices for how to spend a gap year; a choice that will demonstrate a plethora of widely transferable skills.

Students making these tactical moves would also avoid many of the dramas behind UCAS. If they apply having already received their A levels, universities offer a simple unconditional offer or rejection. All the concern about predicted grades evaporates and there is no need for an insurance choice.

More realistic applications can then be made, and institutions feel more secure knowing they won’t be hassled on clearing day from students who didn’t make the cut.

It would be naive to suggest that every student that takes a gap year will have the best experience of university applications, but doing things slightly differently can work out for the best. Either way, taking a gap year will earn you rewards in experience.