You have to admit, the typical notion of what a gap year involves is certainly a tempting prospect, especially upon finishing secondary school and face the immediate prospect of beginning a lengthy rigorous university career.
When we think ‘Gap Year’ we generally imagine 12 months (or thereabouts) spent backpacking your way across the farthest reaches of the earth, absorbing local cultures, lazing on sundrenched beaches, partying through the night and generally have a smashing good time.
That’s the ‘typical’ gap year, but of course taking a year long break between high school and university can give you the opportunity to do many other things which will be equally (or indeed more) beneficial to your career prospects and continuous development.
Although the benefits of taking a gap year may be numerous and tempting we cannot deny that it is still a very important and extremely difficult decision to make, with many people believing that the cons far outweigh the pros.
To aid you in your decision making (and because we really like making lists) we have compiled some of the advantages and disadvantages which we think are amongst the most important considerations that you should take into account when deciding whether or not a gap year is for you.
- The most common argument in favour of taking a gap year is that it will broaden your mind, help develop your view of the world and contextualise your place within it. Mark Twain rather eloquently summed up this notion “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
- It can give you the opportunity to ‘let your hair down’ for a while and relax after what has probably been a grueling few years of study and stressful examinations. This can be good for your own sense of wellbeing and can also help prepare and focus you for the hard work which will follow at university.
- Taking a gap year can really help to develope and grow your social skills by putting you in unusual situations with people you might not normally have mixed with. This can be good experience for the significant social aspects of university including living with a group of new people and working as a member of a team through your course.
- Taking a gap year may well be the last opportunity that you have to see certain parts of the world. Once your career begins taking such a long ‘holiday’ may become very difficult and you may regret not seizing the opportunity when you had it.
- University is often the first time that many people experience ‘living away from home’ and taking a gap year can help develop your independence and make your better prepared for a more permanent move.
- If you choose not to travel during your Gap Year you can work and earn some extra money which could help to reduce some of the financial pressure which almost inevitable comes with university.
- You can use the opportunity to gain some valuable relevant work experience which could give you a head start when it comes to graduation and looking for a job in your chosen field.
- It can give you the time and space you need to consider your options for the future and make sure that the course you have applied for is really the one best suited for you.
- Planning a Gap year means that if you do not get the A Level grades required for your course you have the opportunity to repeat the exams and apply the following year, rather than be served a rejection.
- If you plan to travel on your gap year it can prove to be incredibly expensive, with a bill running into several thousands of pounds.
- Taking such an extended break can make the transition back to the hard work of academia much more difficult.
- You may forget some of the skills and knowledge which will be vital to your university course.
- If the majority of your friends are not taking a gap year you could find yourself somewhat left behind, especially when it comes to important uniservity rights of passage such as freshers week, dissertations and graduations
- There is a risk that a gap year can become a year long session of getting up at noon and watching TV all day if you don’t have a strict plan of what you intend to achieve during it.
- Once you leave college or high school you will have much less support in making your university applications. This is less of a problem if you have already been accepted by a university which has agreed to defer your enrollment, but can be a real headache if you have to begin the application process all over again.
Each of these lists really could go on and on with every individual having unique pros and cons which could be added to the mix. Ultimately the decision of whether or not to take a gap year isn’t going to made in a methodical and mathematically calculated way, but rather from what your instinct tells you you should do…but still a little list never hurt anyone.
If you have enjoyed reading about the pros and cons of taking a gap year you might like to take a look at some of our other recent university related posts.
5 Reasons why you should go to univeristy
5 Reasons why university might not be for you
5 Great careers you can still have even if you don’t get into university.
Job seeking tips for new graduates