Should You Take A Gap Year? (Pros and Cons)

6 minute read

Is college or university the immediate next step after high school? For some students, it is, but for many, taking time off to focus on other areas of life is a better option. This is a gap year, and it can be a productive choice, resulting in several career-boosting opportunities. If you are not sure how to spend your first year after high school and you are considering a gap year, then continue reading to find out how you can get the most out of this time! 


A Gap Year Defined


A gap year is when a student takes a year off, usually between high school graduation and tertiary education. This year is usually aimed at providing a break from academics, creating opportunities to discover yourself and consider what type of education and career you want to pursue. 



What can you do during a gap year?


According to this survey, there are two common reasons that students opted to take a gap year: to recover from academic burnout and to discover more about themselves. 


If you are considering a gap year, you may be wondering how to make this year productive. There are many ways to spend a gap year, including:


  • Volunteering: A gap year provides a unique opportunity to dedicate time to volunteering. 
  • Paid work: Many students simply can’t afford to study full-time, so before university begins, they take a year off to work and save money. 
  • Travelling: Travelling, through volunteer opportunities or just for fun, will enable you to see the world. 
  • Gaining life experiences: Personal growth is highly valuable and many students use their gap year to gain life experiences, and may include things like learning a new language. 
  • A combination of the above: There’s no reason you can’t spend your gap year doing different things! Working abroad can easily tick three of the above boxes as you earn money, travel the world and enhance your collaboration skills in a working environment. 


The pros and cons of taking a gap year


✅ Pro: You can resume your academics feeling refreshed and recharged. 


❌ Con: A gap year can become a distraction from your longer-term plans. 


✅ Pro: If you spend your gap year productively, it can be a valuable addition to your CV


❌ Con: If your gap year is unstructured, it might not add much to your future as it may come across as a year of not doing anything significant. 


✅ Pro: You could spend the year earning and saving money towards tertiary education and other future plans. 


❌ Con: When unplanned, a gap year can be expensive and you may be in a worse financial position. 


✅ Pro: A gap year provides an opportunity to gain valuable work experience in your chosen field. 


❌ Con: You may lose momentum and with it, the excitement to study and pursue educational opportunities. 


✅ Pro: You can gain new life skills, such as how to budget, manage your time, cook, look after your home and navigate a new community. 


❌ Con: The transition back to studying can be more difficult if you let your study habits and learning abilities slide. 


✅ Pro: A gap year is a great opportunity to increase your confidence and independence. 


❌ Con: It can be hard to justify a gap year unless you have a detailed plan. 



How to get the most out of your gap year


Your gap year could be a fruitful opportunity or a wasted year. What sets those two experiences apart is how you plan to spend your gap year. Here’s how to get the most out of the year:


  • Don’t wing it! Whatever you plan to do in your gap year, whether that is travelling, working or a mix of activities, make sure you have a well-structured plan. 
  • Work out what your goals are and plan accordingly! Want to gain work experience while earning and saving? Aim to travel and explore new countries? Whatever you choose, ground your plans in your goals. 
  • Keep track of everything, and we mean everything. Over the course of your gap year, take note of all the activities you take part in, as well as the transferable skills you are learning. These include budgeting, collaborating, and any new skills learned, for the purpose of adding this to your CV. 
  • Embrace any opportunities that build towards your career goals. Why not try writing articles for a local newspaper if you want to be a journalist?
  • If you are set on travelling, make sure you plan well. Either opt for a structured gap year programme or plan your own itinerary. Include must-see attractions and take advantage of the opportunities to explore new places. Consider your travel essentials (such as passport, visas, where you will stay, who you will travel with, what it will cost, etc). 
  • Plan your return. For those travelling, consider when you need to be back so you have ample time to prepare for your post-gap-year studying. Give yourself time to update your CV to include all your newfound experiences and skills. 


Should you take a gap year?


With all of this in mind, should you take a gap year? The answer is highly personal and comes down to you! A gap year is a valid option and can provide several opportunities to boost your career goals. 


  • You should take a gap year if you have specific life experiences you won’t have time to include if you begin studying immediately. 
  • You should not take a gap year if you don’t intend to plan it out well. You are more likely to end up wasting the year instead of pursuing valuable opportunities. 
  • You should take a gap year if you need to earn and save money before beginning your tertiary education. There is no shame in taking a year to save for university! 
  • You should not take a gap year if you are thinking of dropping out of studying altogether. A gap year may put a halt to the little momentum you do have!

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