Gap Years: Pros and Cons
For many teens, the time has come to think about what they want to do after leaving college or sixth form. Some of you may be dead-set on university, or an apprenticeship, and some of you may not be quite sure yet.
For students who may need a bit of extra time to make that choice, a gap year could be perfect!
We’ve put together a list of some of the pros and cons of a gap year to help you decide on your next steps.
PRO: Gaining life experience
On a gap year, you’ll be introduced to a completely new way of life. You may be completely responsible for your own accomodation, travel arrangements, employment…
Unlike at university or school, you won’t be automatically grouped with people with common interests, and you will learn to communicate and make friends in a new environment.
This can provide you with the chance to meet people from all over the world. Not only this, but you’ll broaden your horizons to different cultures, foods, and customs.
If you’re planning on travelling to multiple countries during your gap year, you’ll be the perfect candidate for communication-oriented careers as you develop your interpersonal skills, and are able to network with people from all walks of life.
Not everyone can afford to take a gap year as a spur of the moment decision.
For some, a gap year may involve 40 weeks of 40-hours of work just to enjoy 12 or less weeks of travel.
While it may feel rewarding to have worked for your travels, some may find that they struggle with comparing themselves to others, and how they’ve spent their year out.
It’s important to remember that we aren’t all dealt the same hand in life, and that social media is a highlights reel.
However you spend your gap year, it can be difficult not to compare. If you think that is something that you may struggle with, then perhaps a year out is not for you.
PRO: Taking a break
By the time you come to decide on a gap year, you’ll have spent a year in nursery, six years in primary school, another five in secondary school, and then another two years in sixth form or college.
You deserve a break!
I spoke to my friend Jess about her gap year, and she had this to say:
“I was really, really sick of school. I knew I definitely wanted to go to university, but I couldn’t stand the idea of going right away. I’d spent the last two years doing sixth form during Covid, and working every weekend.
“My gap year gave me the time to really slow down and appreciate each day as it came, without the worries of school or work. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re afraid of burnout at uni.”
CON: You might not actually go to university afterwards
It can be easy to fall into the trap of ‘I’ll go to uni after my gap year’, but for 10% of students this is not the case.
While that may sound like a small percentage, it is vital that you are choosing a gap year for the right reasons. If you’re using a gap year to ‘delay uni’ because you don’t want to go, but feel as if you should, those feelings might not have gone away when you come back.
Remember that it is your future, and there are far more options out there than just university.
PRO: You will probably never have this chance again
If you know you’re going straight to university or employment after your year out, it’s unlikely that most people will have the opportunity to spend a year travelling or doing whatever they like again until they retire - which seems to be getting further and further away.
This year could give you the chance to discover yourself, and what you want to do with your future. It’s important that you make the most of it.
CON: Lack of structure
Life has revolved around an 8:45 to 15:30, Monday to Friday structure for nearly your entire life by the time you come to take your year out.
With a gap year, you don’t have that same certainty as to what each day will look like, and if you’re deciding how to spend your year as you go, you may struggle to manage your time effectively, and it can be easy to waste a year.
If you don’t have a clear plan as to how you’re spending your year out, it may be time to reevaluate.
PRO: Getting money for university
Gap years aren’t always about exotic travel and ski trips. For some people, they’re the practical choice.
If you’re planning on undertaking an intense course when you get to university, such as medicine or law, you might not have time to spend working a part-time job, and need to dedicate as much time as possible to studying or work experience placements.
With a year out, you can make that possible.
If you saved just £300 a month while working, you’d have saved £4,200 in the 14 months between the July you finish your exams, and the September you start university.
CON: Major FOMO
If all of your friends are going to university, and some of them are going together, timelines full of freshers' week posts and your friends meeting up while you’re working, or halfway across the world, will give you FOMO or make you homesick.
In that case maybe it’s time to rethink.
So, what’s the take-away?
Deciding to take a gap year, or not, is a major step in your education journey, but ultimately it is your choice.
Be realistic. Weigh up your options. Make the right choice for you.