Graduate high school, go straight to university, then get a job. In many cases, this is the sequence of life events that we’ve been raised to expect. However, there are other options available that are just as valid and worthy of exploration.
Why not weigh them up before you commit to four years of further education? That way, you can ensure you choose the path that’s right for you, even if it is a less predictable one!
One way you might choose to diverge from the norm is by taking a gap year between high school and university. During a gap year, you could work full-time or pursue an internship. You could volunteer, whether at home or abroad. Or, if you have the resources to do so, you could simply spend a year traveling and enjoying other cultures.
For some ambitious students, the mere idea of a gap year is worrisome. After all, won’t a year out of the education system affect their future career? The answer is… not really!
If anything, a gap year can have a positive impact on a young person’s long-term prospects. Sure, they might start university a year later than their peers, but they start with some significant advantages.
Read on to discover five things future students gain by taking a gap year between school and university.
- Valuable life skills
No matter how you choose to spend your gap year, there are plenty of opportunities to develop life skills. These skills may equip you to navigate the transition between school and higher education.
At high school, you receive step-by-step instructions, and you’re under the close supervision of your teachers. University requires a greater degree of agency, responsibility, and self-motivation to succeed.
Why not spend your year pursuing activities that help you develop these important qualities? Look for opportunities to contribute to a group effort because these experiences will serve you throughout your education and beyond.
Whether you choose to travel, work or volunteer, you’ll undoubtedly meet people of diverse backgrounds and learn from their perspectives. The ability to relate to different demographics is a very useful transferable skill.
By entering new and potentially uncomfortable environments, you can develop the self-confidence and resilience required to make the most of your university experience. You’ll become much more independent in the process.
- Broadened horizons
There’s no need to wait until you graduate to see what the world has to offer. A gap year can give you a preview of what’s to come and introduce you to possibilities you may never have considered before.
Of course, those who travel broaden their horizons by experiencing other cultures. However, even if you stay in your hometown rather than heading to another continent, you’ll still see a different side of life.
The more you know about the opportunities that are available, the more prepared you’ll be to make informed decisions about your future.
Building a bank of rich life experiences will eventually enrich your studies. When you do enter university, you’ll have real-world knowledge to apply in the academic environment.
- Time for rest and reflection
Why rush the transition between high school and university? By taking a year off of formal education, you can avoid burnout and ensure you’re emotionally and mentally ready to commit to a four-year course.
Giving yourself time for reflection means you’ll begin your course absolutely sure of your motivation, rather than doing it just because “it’s what you’re meant to do next.”
The idea of taking a year off to recharge may seem like a luxury. However, choosing to take a gap year to gather your energy before engaging in a demanding university course could be beneficial.
It might mean you’re in a better mindset to succeed when you do start studying. For some students, this time off could mean the difference between finishing university and dropping out due to exhaustion.
Messages we receive from the media contribute to a false sense of urgency. You shouldn’t be fooled into believing you need to be in your ideal career by the time you’re 22 or you’ll have somehow missed your chance forever!
Opportunities will still exist one year later. Who knows? They may even be better opportunities! The business world and the job market are very unpredictable that way.
- Space to pursue passions
Do you know what you really like to do? We seem to know when we are kids, but then high school happens, and our attention is totally absorbed by our education. If it’s been a while since you engaged with what you enjoy the most, a gap year can present an excellent opportunity to reconnect.
Knowing what your passions are will help you eventually pursue the correct course for you. This can avoid a scenario in which you’re chopping and changing classes because you don’t actually enjoy your chosen subjects.
Nobody is denying that a great career is incredibly important. However, there are other important elements to life that you shouldn’t neglect. If you have the means to spend a year fulfilling a lifelong dream, remember that this experience has inherent value.
University and the job market can wait an extra year for your big entrance.
- Self-awareness and a sense of purpose
Because high school is a very sheltered environment, you may still unconsciously define yourself in relation to your classmates. A gap year is an opportunity to experiment with different identities and learn more about yourself.
Consider it a fresh start: a chance to explore new possibilities and redefine yourself, if you wish. Maybe you’ve always said you hate physical activity because you were terrible at high school PE. A yoga retreat in Bali could completely change your perspective!
Beyond the confines of the classroom, you may be surprised by what you’re capable of achieving. Attempting new challenges like volunteer work or solo travel can reveal qualities you didn’t know you had within you.
During a gap year, you can learn more about what drives you, what you fear, what you’re good at and where you need to improve. This level of self-awareness will help you approach your studies with a more mature and realistic attitude.
Of course, not every gap year is of equal value. The sign of a successful gap year is that you enter university with a clearer idea of who you are and what you want from your course as well as increased personal resources to achieve your goals.