- What qualifies as a gap year?
- What are the pros and cons of taking a gap year?
- Is it a good idea to take a gap year?
- How is a gap year viewed in the UK?
- Five famous people who took a gap year
A gap year can be either a feather in your cap or a blotch on your C.V., depending on what you choose to do with it.
While taking some time out to pursue non-academic or parallel interests isn’t bad, it is important to be fully aware of the consequences before making the decision. So what exactly does a gap year entail? Let’s find out.
What qualifies as a gap year?
While any gap of 12 months in your formal education or employment can be considered a gap year, most people only opt for it once they’ve finished high school. You can spend the year in a structured gap year program, working as an intern or doing other things like learning new languages, trying out hobbies, etc.
Taking a year off work is sometimes called taking a “sabbatical year” for yourself. Most people who take sabbaticals do so in accordance with their employers’ pre-set terms and are expected to return to the company after their stipulated break. Maternity leaves are a common form of paid sabbaticals.
What are the pros and cons of taking a gap year?
- Exploring non-academic passions 🏄
Taking a year off before starting university allows you to consider what you truly enjoy doing. You could either try and develop new hobbies or spend time practising your existing hobbies. These pursuits may even lead to you discovering parallel career paths you might not have thought about before.
- Financial Independence 💰
Using a gap year to work as an intern can help you earn a decent amount of money. This money can then be used to pay for your university tuition, rent and other utilities when you move out. In addition, becoming financially independent early on in life helps boost self-esteem and gives you the confidence to aim higher in your educational and professional life.
- A good addition to your CV
Spending the gap year gaining technical skills or working with promising organisations such as Young Enterprise, U.K can add to your overall employability. These skills can also prove to be extremely useful in university.
- Losing Academic Momentum 🙇🏽♀️
School education sets a certain routine that students gradually get used to. A gap year can disrupt this routine, resulting in decreased academic productivity and sudden bouts of social stress or anxiety upon return.
- It can hold you back professionally
Not being able to learn or practice an employable skill in the gap year can negatively impact your CV. For many employers who primarily focus on grades, a gap year sticks out like a sore thumb when there isn't an apt professional explanation for it. Although, it is worth mentioning that if you have done something concrete in the gap year, many employers may appreciate the time off.
Is it a good idea to take a gap year?
The most prevalent reasons for taking a gap year are:
- Dealing with educational burnout caused by high school
- Preparing for competitive exams or university courses
- Exploring new hobbies and discovering yourself
However, mental burnout or other personal problems are completely valid reasons for taking a gap year. Many leading colleges now offer specialised gap year programs that allow students to take time off their courses without facing negative academic consequences.
Whether or not a gap year is good for you depends largely on when you take it and what you choose to do with it.
How is a gap year viewed in the UK?
Most UK universities understand the importance of a gap year and value the different perspectives it can bring to the cohort. However, it is advisable to double-check the status of gap years with the universities you wish to apply to.
Taking a gap year is an important decision. What you choose to do with the time will decide whether the gap year will positively or negatively impact your academic and professional CV.
Five famous people who took a gap year
If you do decide to take a gap year, you will be in good company. Maybe some of the following names will surprise you and maybe their chosen gap year activities will inspire you! Take a look:
👉 Benedict Cumberbatch
After Harrow, the Sherlock star moved to Darjeeling, India to teach English to Tibetan Buddhist monks.
👉 J.K. Rowling
The writer behind Harry Potter took a year to teach English in Porto, Portugal, a job she found through an advertisement in the Guardian newspaper!
👉 Malia Obama
Malia took a gap year before starting at Harvard, she was lucky enough to travel extensively and get work experience at the US Embassy in Madrid, and with a film studio in New York.
👉 Prince Harry
The youngest of Princess Diana’s sons worked with orphans in Lesotho in Africa after leaving school in 2003.
👉 Steve Jobs
Mr Apple dropped out of college to spend a year in India, he famously spent months meditating in the mountains and learning how to tap into what was important to him.
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