Gap year vs studying: the pros and cons

Are you debating whether to take a gap year or launch straight into studying your first year after school? The decision can be a really complicated one with so many different factors playing a part. You have to work through what you want, what your parents want, and what career counsellors tell you your test results suggest. And of course, sometimes you don’t know what you want to do yet! Take a look at our pros and cons to give you a few ideas that might make your decision a bit easier.

Reasons to gap it

You don’t know what you want to study

It’s an incredible waste of money to study a course you may not continue. If you have no idea of what general career path you want to follow, a purposeful year of work experience and perhaps travelling could be beneficial to you.

You want to travel before you begin a long period of studying

Perhaps you know what you want to study and it involves a super-intensive 9 year course. Taking a year off to work and travel may be a good idea if it’s something you want to do and you know you may not have another opportunity to do it.

You want to do a year of community service

If you want to give a year of your life to community service, the year just after school and before studying could be a good time.

You need to learn some independence

Working, travelling and paying your own way helps you to achieve some independence, which is great for your self-confidence. You can also do this by going to varsity away from home and staying in a digs.

Recharge your batteries and get some culture

A year of travelling and working between school and varsity can recharge your batteries and teach you a lot about new countries, cultures and languages.

Downsides to the gap year

Gap year vs studying: the pros and consIt can affect your plan to study

Getting back into a routine of studying after working, earning money and travelling can be extremely difficult. You may be tempted to give up on tertiary education.

You get left behind

An (often) unexpected side effect of a gap year is the not-so-nice feeling of being left behind. When you return, a lot of your friends will be moving into their second year of study or work. In your absence they will have grown, changed, and established new friendship groups. You’re likely to feel as though you don’t quite fit in the way that you used to.

Cash crisis

If your gap year doesn’t go according to plan (or if you don’t plan it), you might spend more of your savings than you had bargained for. Coming home to debt or a compromised bank balance can badly affect your plans to study.

Reasons to get stuck straight into studying

You’re already in the zone

When you finish school you’re already “in the zone”. You’re familiar with studying and some form of academic discipline. This makes transitioning into a “varsity” (or other tertiary education) structure so much easier than if you take a gap year. The desire and discipline to study can fade after spending time travelling and being in a different environment.

It’s the quickest way to make decent bucks

There are very few people who manage to earn well, and sustainably, without having studied first. The quicker you get your accounting degree/web design diploma/beauty therapy certification the sooner you’ll have real money to live off.

Student life is awesome

Being a student is fun! It’s hard work if you want to do well, but for most people it’s a fantastic opportunity to spend a lot of time with friends and also have a bit of independence while still having the security of home.

Rethink studying straight after school if…

You haven’t the foggiest idea what you want to do with your life

It’s probably not the best choice to study straight after school if you honestly don’t have a general idea of what kind of career you want. The chances are it’ll waste time and money as well as cause distress for you and your family.

There you have it: a few pros and cons about gap years and studying. Hopefully it’s helped you see things more clearly. Good luck with your decision!

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