Gap Years - a good idea or not?

Mind the gap

It’s that time of year again. Schools and colleges are starting to focus on preparations for the next round of university applications and Year 12 students throughout the country are turning their attention to their career futures. And whilst university will be the immediate goal for many, there will always be those students who feel that a gap year is the best option for them. But is it?

Now, I’m going to lay my cards on the table and say that I’m a big fan of gap years. I took one myself back in 1992, when a last minute opportunity came up to take part in the fabulous Rotary Youth Exchange Programme and my planned first year at university was deferred in favour of spending 12 months in Australia. But I know that lots of students (and their parents) are understandably a little anxious about the prospect of taking a gap year, with much of the anxiety being focused on how it will be viewed by universities and employers, and whether gap students will ever want to return to education at the end of it. Perhaps the worry is that by taking a year out they are merely putting themselves at risk of falling behind their peer group.

Of course, like most career-related dilemmas the overall value of a gap year does depend upon your individual circumstances, in particular; what your motivations are for taking a year out and what you plan to do with these 12 months. So here are some basic dos and don’ts when it comes to taking time out before university:

Do:

Don’t:

In my experience, as long as a gap year is spent wisely then Admissions Tutors are usually impressed with the maturity and additional skills that have been developed by these students. Similarly, when it comes to future jobs, a student who is taken a gap year is often able to bring something to their CV that sets them apart from all the other applicants. So don’t be put off by how a gap year may hold you back. Instead, think about the ways in which it may carry you forward.