Students may decide to take a year out for a number of reasons.

Many students decide to take a gap year to take a break from their studies, to earn money, to gain work experience, to travel the world before entering the world of work, or even to spend some time volunteering. This time out is usually taken between finishing school and beginning a university course.

Whatever your reason may be, if you are considering a gap year, it is important to be aware of the advantages of doing so, but equally as important to be aware of the downsides. In this post, we’re going to go through some of the most important pros and cons of taking a year out, to help you make an informed choice on whether taking some time away from your studies is really for you.

The Pros:

1. Experiences you gain can make you better prepared for university.

Whether you decide to spend your gap year travelling, volunteering or working – these things will inevitably mature you and help you grow as a person. They will give you the opportunity to experience an abundance of new things that will provide you with valuable new skills, as well as enhance and complement your existing skills – and all of this can make you better prepared for life at university.

A gap year has the potential to teach you much more valuable lessons than a classroom setting ever can. This is particularly true if you decide to spend your year abroad, where you will gain the ability to work independently, better preparing you for independent study as well as independent living whilst at university. Spending your gap year abroad will also provide you with a wealth of cultural awareness, which is sure to strengthen any university application.

2. Likely to be the longest ‘holiday’ that you will get the chance to take.

Sadly, holidays are much harder to come by once you get your foot in the door of your career, and so taking a gap year gives you the chance to make the most of some time away from studies/work.

After being in school and studying hard for several years, many students can come out the other end feeling nothing but burnt out. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to lack of motivation and poor performance at university, because you simply haven’t taken the time you need to prepare yourself mentally.

In that case, students can take advantage of a gap year to relax. You can spend time with loved ones, yet also spend time productively by reflecting on your goals and future aspirations. When you enter your career, it’s much harder to get the chance to take such much-needed time for yourself.

However, it is important to spend your time wisely – while it’s great to take some time out, you shouldn’t completely relax from productivity during your gap year, as this could lead to losing academic momentum. Don’t simply view your entire gap year as a vacation.

3. You can spend it working for experience or for saving.

It’s no secret that university is an expensive process, and the thought of the cost is something that deters many students from applying to their dream courses. These days, students find it difficult to make their student loan stretch far beyond their rent and other essential expenses. Therefore, spending your gap year working means that you can gather funds to help with living costs whilst university, which can take a huge financial pressure off your shoulders.

Alternatively, some students decide to take a gap year in order to work to gain a valuable edge in the already hugely competitive career market. Internships are a fantastic way to boost career prospects, network with professional and like-minded individuals, as well as gain real-world insight into your chosen career field. Taking a year out to work at a relevant internship could do wonders for your chances at a proper job after graduation.

4. You can pursue other passions.

Taking a year out gives you a chance to reflect on what it is that you really love to do. You might decide to spend your time pursuing your most beloved hobbies and interests – you might even discover that you want to pursue a different career path.

A huge fraction of students who enter university straight out of school end up regretting their choice of course within the first two years, and many end up dropping out because of it. In the end, a huge amount of time is wasted – not to mention money. If you’re in any way unsure of the direction you are heading, taking a gap year allows you to reflect and really consider which option is best for you.

The Cons:

1. It can be very expensive.

Taking a gap year can be very expensive – particularly if you are hoping to spend the majority of the time travelling overseas. Of course, it depends on the destination and the duration of the trip – but there’s no real question that you’re inevitably going to spend a bit of cash. Without the proper planning and organisation, a gap year spent travelling can take a huge financial toll on you. If you’re in any way concerned about funds, you really need to weigh up your options by asking yourself whether a gap year spent abroad is a wise investment for you, or is it just a really long, really expensive holiday?

The best way to make your gap year abroad work financially is to work and travel at the same time. That way, you’ll always have some form of income and not have to worry about making your money stretch.

2. There’s a potential to waste a lot of valuable time.

Unless you have a clear plan for your gap year, and are able to set yourself goals for what it is you hope to achieve during your year out – you could end up wasting a lot of valuable time. The last thing you want is for weeks and months to suddenly pass you by – and the most productive thing you’ve done in a day is binge watch an entire series on Netflix.

Wasting time being unproductive – especially when it snowballs into months or potentially the entire year – is never going to look good on your CV, nor impress any future employers. When considering a gap year, think carefully about whether you’re doing it for the right reasons, and be sure to set yourself a concrete plan that you know you will follow.

3. You risk losing academic momentum.

While taking a year out can be beneficial for many students and make them feel refreshed to dive back into their studies – it may make others lose academic momentum. You might begin university rusty on skills such as essay writing, making the transition back into your studies a very difficult one.

You could even risk losing interest in your studies altogether, making you feel totally unmotivated to begin university – so you need to be sure that taking such an extended break from your studies is something that will really work for you.

4. You will be set back a year.

One of the toughest things to think about when considering taking a year out is the fact that you will be set back a year. You will be one year behind your friends who will already be settled into the student way of life by the time you get there – which can be a pretty daunting prospect for many people.

Additionally, taking a year out can add an extended period of time on to an already lengthy educational process, which may mean that you could miss out on an important early start in your career. Again, you need to thoroughly consider whether taking a year out will be the best thing for you and ultimately, your future.

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