After spending 12 or so years in full-time education, no one would blame you for wanting to take a break between taking your A-levels and starting a degree.
Is taking some time out from education a good idea though? Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of a gap year.
Pros of a gap year
Time to travel
One of the main reasons to take a gap year before starting university is to go travelling. If you don’t take the opportunity now, there’s a good chance you’ll be spending the next 50 years working and the most you’ll be able to look forward to is a couple of weeks a year in Spain (other countries are available).
You can save money for university – Being a student is expensive and student loans don’t go far. If you work throughout your gap year, you can save money to help towards the cost of student accommodation, bills and books. You can even combine travelling and saving money if you want to make money while you travel.
Volunteering – Volunteering is a wonderful, worthwhile way to spend a gap year. There are many volunteer programs all over the world, so if there’s something you want to get involved with and possibly scope out for a future career, now’s your chance.
Work experience – Similar to volunteering, doing work experience in your chosen field is a great way to spend a gap year. You’ll be working with experts, getting hands-on experience and it will give you a head-start on job opportunities when you graduate.
It looks good on your CV – Although relevant work experience will look good on your CV, everything you do in your gap year, if used wisely, will make you look good in a potential employer’s eyes. Whether you travelled, volunteered or did work experience, these are all confidence and independence-building skills that you’ll be able to transfer into a working environment.
You might not get the freedom again – As said above, once you enter the world of employment, the longest you get to take off in one go for a holiday might only be two weeks. You might be lucky enough to work for an employer who offers a sabbatical but, in general, a gap year could be your only chance to have a whole year off with which to do whatever you like.
You’ll grow as a person – Travelling the world or volunteering in another country will immerse you in other cultures and you’ll come back with a new-found independence, confidence and maturity.
Cons of a gap year
Parental disapproval – Your parents might disapprove of you taking a gap year. They might see it as you being lazy or they might worry that, after you’ve tasted freedom away from the educational system, you might not want to go back.
You can waste your time off – Your parents’ fears about you wasting your gap year might not be unfounded. Without a clear plan, target and goals for your gap year, you can end up getting to the end of it and realising all you’ve done is got through hundreds of Netflix box sets.
Your friends will be moving on without you – Although you’ll be making friends at university whenever you start, the friends you went to school with will all be starting university, graduating and getting a job a year before you, which can leave you feeling left out.
Employers might not take you seriously – Although there are employers out there who will look favourably upon your gap year, there are others who will view it as a reason to doss about for a year. (These employers probably aren’t ones you want to work for though anyway.)
Loss of momentum – There’s a good chance that, after your gap year, you lose your enthusiasm for studying and can’t face going back to studying, education and essays.
Pros and cons of a gap year
There are a lot of pros and cons to weigh up when considering whether or not to take a gap year before starting university. Make sure you think about it carefully and don’t just take a year off because you fancy a rest. A gap year should be thought through and planned carefully to ensure it’s not a wasted opportunity.