The benefits of a gap year

Deferring is becoming an increasingly popular option for students wanting a well-earned break, a chance to set themselves up financially for the coming years and an opportunity to gain some real-world experience before hitting the books again. When your high school exams finally wrap up, it’s time to start making some plans for next year before you receive your offers. Here are some of the reasons why you might consider taking a gap year:

  • Take a break: Many students feel that after so many years of schooling they need a break before they launch into their tertiary studies. But this doesn’t necessarily mean a year of hanging around the house in your pajamas (although that might be nice at first). Many students use their gap year to work, travel or volunteer, which gives them a great chance to gain some life experience. Gap year companies cater for students wanting to gain a mind-expanding experience before commencing their studies, providing tailored programs to work, travel and volunteer overseas.
  • Take advantage of university gap year programs: A number of institutions recognise the value of a gap year. Programs may allow gap year students to develop a journal or portfolio, present a seminar on their experience, keep in contact through social networking sites, use university resources, begin studying subjects and earn credit towards their degree.
  • Experience the world of work: Many students choose to take a year off to work and build up a buffer for the financially straining years ahead, but this isn’t the only advantage. You can also add real value to your résumé and develop invaluable first-hand industry knowledge by working in an area that relates to your course. This kind of employment experience will give you a real edge over other students, both during the course of your degree and after graduation when you hit the jobs market.
  • Qualify for Youth Allowance: Students from regional or remote areas who earn a designated amount of money during their gap year are able to qualify as independent and receive Youth Allowance during their studies. Deferring and working is the only way that many students can qualify for Youth Allowance. This is a really worthwhile way to spend your gap year, because the knowledge that you will be supported financially throughout your degree is a great reward at the end of a year of work.

The main considerations:

  • Will a gap year affect your chances of a scholarship? Many scholarships come with a ‘no deferral’ condition, so be sure to check the conditions attached to your scholarship before deferring. Also, make sure you apply for any other university scholarships this year (and defer any that you receive for a year) rather than next year after your year off.
  • For how long can you defer? Some universities will allow you to begin your studies mid-year, while others only allow for the usual deferral of one year. Some, on the other hand, are very lenient and allow students to defer for up to two years. This all depends on the institution and the course.
  • Have you considered other options? If travel is your main objective then you might like to consider completing an exchange program during your degree, or completing your first year and then deferring to travel. This way, you might even be able to receive financial support from your institution. If gaining some industry experience is the main aim then you might like to consider completing a degree a with an inbuilt internship program, such as a co-op degree.