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Mind the Gap: Should You Consider a Gap Year Before Heading to University?

27 April 2022   |   by Explore Careers

Whatever your plans and ideas for life after high school, there’s one thing we’re willing to wager a large amount of money on – you’ll definitely be ready for a break!

It’s completely natural – and highly recommended! – to take a rest period before you get stuck into the ‘next thing’, but you might be wondering how long of a rest period should you have?

Well, how does an entire year sound?!

You might have already heard a bit about taking a gap year before moving on to university or other plans, but what does that look like and is it a good idea?

Let’s find out!

What is a Gap Year?

A gap year is a period of experiential learning usually taken between high school graduation and starting higher education.

Gap years are a chance to take a break from academics and allow you to get out there and discover yourself before considering what kind of education and career you want to pursue.

Although referred to as a ‘year’, a gap year doesn’t have to be a full twelve-month period. It could be less, or it could be more – it’ll come down to what you end up doing with your time.

What Can You Do During a Gap Year?

The most common activity that young people pursue during their gap year is travel. For many, your life has been filled with a strict routine and governed by classes, tests, exams, homework and assignments – a gap year spent travelling is a chance to put all that to one side and be a little free with how you spend and structure your time.

When we say travel, this could look like:

  • Group travel with friends internationally.
  • Vanlife travels across Australia, seeing some of the remote destinations this beautiful country has to offer.
  • Solo travel and spending time thinking about what you want in life.
  • Volunteering overseas, offering your time to help a good cause.
  • Working overseas on a working holiday visa.

Other ways to spend your gap year might include:

  • Volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about.
  • Undertaking an internship or two to gain real-world work and life experience.
  • Committing to a creative passion project.
  • Working full or part-time just to take a break from studying.

There are no rules when it comes to your gap year – it’s your chance to decide how you want to spend your time for a bit and what you think will offer you the best experience.

5 Benefits of Doing a Gap Year

Aside from getting a bit of time to yourself to help you make future decisions, a gap year offers many personal and professional benefits. Here are a few we’ve seen:

  1. Gain some perspective: School is great, but it often doesn’t expose you to life and different ideas or perspectives in quite the same way as getting out there in the world! A gap year and help you gain perspective on life and where you want it to go.
  2. Try new things and experiences: Especially if you travel, a gap year is a chance to experience new things, learn from others, and be brave!
  3. Improve decision making, planning and organisation skills: Whether it’s through volunteering your time or travelling – you’ll be developing a broad range of excellent life skills that will help you in the future – both in and outside of work!
  4. Help other communities and develop cultural awareness: If you give your time to volunteer, work or undertake an internship, you’ll be working with many new people. You can guarantee there will be individuals from walks of life you’ve not met before, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to learn about others and develop your awareness of other cultures and communities.
  5. Boost your confidence: There’s nothing like getting out there and doing life on your own terms to help boost your confidence. Sure, you’ll probably make a few mistakes or mishaps along the way, but that’s all part of the learning process!

A Quick Gap Year FAQ

You’re probably thinking this all sounds great, so what’s the catch?

No catch! We promise – but here are a few frequently asked questions we’ve seen regarding gap years and your future in study and work:

  1. If I take a gap year, will I lose my university offer? No – most universities will allow you to defer your university offer for up to three semesters. Each university is different so you’ll need to ask, but many are happy for you to defer your studies until after your gap year.
  2. Won’t employers penalise me for having a gap on my resume? Yes and no – it depends on how you spend your time. If it’s sitting around home playing games and eating snacks, it’ll be a hard sell! But if you spent it travelling, volunteering, working – or some other structured activity and experiences – you’ll have lots to offer and talk about!
  3. Are gap years worth it? That totally depends on you and what you want to get out of it! There are a lot of benefits, but there can also be a lot to think about. We recommend doing some research and speaking to others who’ve done one to help you learn all about the pros and cons.

Where to Find Out More

Below are a few helpful resources where you can find out more about Gap years, different programs and whether it might be the right step for you:

  • WorkStudyGrow has a great gap year quiz that can help you explore your options and further information on programs available.
  • Australian Defence Force offers a comprehensive gap year program for anyone interested in a defence career.
  • Student Exchange has heaps of information on international gap year programs available for Australian students.

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