To gap or not to gap – do you need a year out or not?

By Jan 31, 2019 No Comments

Taking a Gap yearDo you need a study break? And no, we don’t mean a quick cup of coffee before going back to your lecture notes. We mean a proper break… like a gap year.

Many people take a gap year after school, before they start college. But it’s becoming increasingly popular to take a gap year after you’ve finished your degree, before applying to do your honours. Some people are even taking gap years in the middle of their degrees, if they begin to doubt their degree choice and need some time to think and refocus.

While a year off might sound fabulous right now, it isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. There are pros and cons to taking a gap year, and you want to be absolutely sure of your motivations and expectations before you take the plunge.

Pros of taking a gap year

1. It can be good for your resume

Taking a gap year after uni where you involve yourself in activities that are relevant to your degree can look excellent on your CV. This is especially true if you work and travel overseas, as international experience will really boost your resume.

Even if you take a gap year here in South Africa, you can gain some great experience.

2. You learn to be independent

If you’ve gone straight from school to university, chances are you’ve never had to adult 100% in the adult world. For some people, taking a gap year is the opportunity to stand on their own feet for the first time. This teaches self-sufficiency and independence and is a valuable self-learning experience.

3. You learn lots about yourself

A gap year after uni can be a journey of self-discovery. You discover who you are and what is important to you away from the pressures and influences of structured education. It’s a good way to refocus your energy and decide if the career path you chose after school really is the right one, which is why many people take a gap year in the middle of their degree.

Cons of taking a gap year

1. It can be expensive

If you want to spend a gap year travelling abroad, remember to factor in the cost of flights, accommodation, food and entertainment. This can get expensive. A working holiday might be a better option.

Or, stay in South Africa. You can still have the gap year experience without going overseas.

2. You can lose momentum in your studying

Once you’ve had a break from studying, you may never want to go back! This is a problem if you have a definite study and career path mapped out for yourself, or if your chosen career requires specific qualifications. Bear in mind that some universities have limited post-graduate spaces, and taking a year off might count against you if they don’t think you are fully committed to your studies.

3. Lack of support can be hard

If you take a gap year far away from home, in another city or country, it can be difficult to cope without support. When it’s plain sailing, and everything is good, you’ll be alright, but if you have tough times and you’re in a foreign country, you won’t have the hands-on support of your friends and family. Some people also find culture shock very difficult to handle.

The choice is yours

At the end of the day, the choice is yours. A gap year can be beneficial, but only if you have the right motivations and are fully aware of the pros and cons. If you want to take a gap year because you’re feeling lazy, it’s probably not a great idea. But if you really want the experience to learn, grow and add value to your life, and you’re able to do it… then why not?

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