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Choosing Between a Gap Year or Further Education

As a child, I was encouraged to study.  It was important to work hard and get results.  Taking a break from education was frowned upon.  Since then things have changed.  Continuing with education is still encouraged but taking gap years/breaks is now very popular amongst many students. 

Decisions, Decisions

It’s hard to decide what to do when you leave school and not a decision to be taken lightly.    I know I struggled initially to decide what to study. Taking on a course that you don’t have your heart in isn’t worth the money or time it will cost and in some cases, a break from studying can do you a world of good.  This not only gives breathing space but also lets you really think about what you want to do in the future and go back into education with a little life experience as an added bonus.  Here I look at the pros of taking a break before you decide whether to dive back into full-time study or taking a little breather and time to clear your mind.

Life Experience

Some of my friends choose to take a gap year.  The gap year for them was great as it provided them with the chance to get a little life experience through traveling.  Travelling can open your eyes to new experiences, different cultures and help you grow as a person as well as boost confidence.  It also helps cultivate various skills including budgeting, sourcing affordable flights and accommodation and researching safety in the chosen destination.

Financial Preparation

Opting to take a gap year can provide an opportunity to save up much-needed funds in preparation for the expenses to come.  This can then allow students to focus on their education when they get to university. It’s not easy to juggle part-time work around lessons, studying and a social life.  Having money in the bank can mean the main focus is on studies rather than on whether you can earn enough to be able to afford to continue with studies.

Preparation is vital.  Researching where to study can help with keeping the costs down.  In some cases studying and living at home with parents is an option.  When studying elsewhere students need to look at pricing for local accommodation to check feasibility.  Locations where the course can be taken need to be compared. For example, the cost of studying in London will be far more than the cost of studying in Newcastle.  Study London gives an idea of what to expect depending on the type of course you opt for.  You will be able to check the approximate costs of private student accommodation all over the UK easily online. For example, if you take a look at this listing from Collegiate, their luxury apartments are available in Newcastle from £159 per week. Of course, the cost is going to vary depending on what type of accommodation you’re looking for.  On the flip side, the equivalent type of accommodation can cost around £218 a week in London.

You could always consider a house share, or living in university campus accommodation but most tend to be extremely cramped or in poor condition having experienced a good range when visiting friends who were studying.

Deferring to Take a Gap Year

Not decided whether to take a gap year although you have been accepted to do a popular course?  It can be hard to know what to do. The risk of not being accepted into it again if you choose to do it at a later date can be a concern.  Approaching the university and speaking to them if you have your heart set on a gap year can help. If you don’t ask, you don’t get is my philosophy.  Provided you get good exam results you can normally defer a year.

Are You Passionate About Your Chosen Course?

One of the most important questions to answer when choosing between a gap year or to go straight into further education is how passionate you are about your chosen course.   You shouldn’t succumb to peer pressure when choosing which course to take. It’s your life that will be influenced by your decisions.  It can be difficult knowing what we want to do at such a young age and being certain of the course we choose means we are less likely to decide it’s not appropriate part way through.  The complete University Guide might be useful in helping those who might need some inspiration.

It can help to talk to teachers, friends, and parents about options and get ideas from them.  Hearing different ideas and opinions can really help and might help you discover a course perfect for you that you didn’t know existed.  The key thing to remember is that this is a choice you must make for yourself.

Did you /will you opt to take a gap year or go straight into further education?

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This Post Has 45 Comments

  1. My mummy really wishes she’d taken a gap year before her degree (and MA) as she would have loved to see more of the world before settling into a job, career and family.

    1. It can be a good idea as sometimes it is hard to do this after the course is complete.

  2. I would prefer getting the education bit over and done with where possible. Then I can take a break after it is all done.

    1. That’s what I did although I think a year off might have been nice too 🙂

  3. I went straight into higher education from school and it ended up being the worst decision. I hated it and wasn’t passionate about the course at all. I felt a pressure from my school to go straight into it. I am now 2 years down the line, traveled a lot, working 2 jobs and ready to trunk a different course.
    I highly recommend taking time out of education to make some money and travel. There is more to life than studying 24/7.

    1. I totally agree it can do you the world of good to have that break in between 🙂

  4. I had a gap year and wish I had had longer because I still wasn’t ready for further education when I started it and didn’t stick at it. I do think it depends on the course though, I went into mental health nursing and I just wasn’t older enough in my opinion at the time

    1. That’s quite a hard subject considering what you need to be able to handle. I think you may be right. A little longer will have benefited you greatly.

  5. I never took a break year. I went straight from high school to college. It did take me an extra year to graduate because I transferred schools and changed majors, but it was still all great experience. My mom waited to go to college until after she had me and my sister and said it was more of a struggle. As for the financial, I earned a few scholarships in high school that I would have lost if I didn’t go straight to college.

  6. In the US, once you graduate from high school, you are supposed to go on to college right away. No gap year, just more education. I kind of wish I took a gap year because it would be a good experience.

    1. That’s such a shame. It can be beneficial when entering certain professions to gain some life experience.

  7. Taking a gap year is a good idea for folks who need a break or are not clear about their educational goals. It must be done with discipline and a plan of action or it could end up becoming a wasted year.

    1. It can be good to allow those unsure of what to do to get a little life experience. This could even totally change what they thought they might do initially.

  8. I love the idea of a Gap year but my son chose to go straight to university and for him, it was the right choice

    1. The right choice can vary depending on the individual. Glad he made the right choice for him.

  9. During my first degree, I was tempted to take a gap, but just drove on amd got it done. However, a gap 6ear is a great thing to do for sure xx

    1. I think it is but then it can also come down to personal preference.

  10. I love this post I suppose I took many gap years I went to university 5 years later than I was meant to and when I graduate I am doing a completely different lower level qualification after. I think if students are unsure they can always remember there is a study abroad year on some courses and going abroad does really give you life experience. X

    1. Thanks Morgan, glad you liked it. I think sometimes a bigger gap can be beneficial depending on the person and also the course.

  11. I think it is different for each person. I went all the way through until my second year of college and then I took a break. I think learning about yourself definitely helps with what you might want to choose for college but it also is difficult to go back once you leave.

    1. It can be hard to go back but then you return knowing so much more and sometimes with a greater determination to learn.

  12. I think a gap year could be beneficial to have fun before college. I wouldn’t mind if my kids decided on it. Sometimes the brain needs a break!

    1. It can be a good thing depending on how it is used.

  13. I didn’t take a gap year. And we will encourage our children not to take on either. I think it would be harder to get back into the swing of things by taking a year off.

    1. It can be harder to get back into education. Although in some cases we need life experience and a little more maturity depending on the course.

  14. Taking a gap year can be really beneficial for a lot of people. However, it can also be negative. You definitely have to know yourself and consider the pros and cons.

    1. That’s very true. It is a very individual thing and an important decision to make.

  15. Considering it took me 10 years to graduate from college, I don’t think I’ll return. But I want my kids to do what feels right.

    1. It is an individual choice and everyone has different views on what’s best for them.

  16. This is a very important issue to ponder when planning education. A gap year can have its benefits but going straight through has its plus and minus factors too.

    1. It’s very true there are pros and cons for both.

  17. I wish I went straight into a PhD program, instead of taking a gap with furthering my education.

    1. Sometimes it is the right thing. It’s important to do what works best for you x

  18. I remember taking a gap year and although it was a nice decision and worked out in the long run, a part of me wishes I went straight into post-secondary right away! I think the problem was that I couldn’t find a course I was super interested in.

    1. It can help to allow you to make the right decision as to what to do. It sounds like you needed the extra time.

  19. I took a course that wasn’t passionate about. Back then I didn’t have a choice, it was the field where I can get a job easily.

    1. That’s a shame, although maybe it’s time to retrain.

  20. My daughter considered the option of a gap year but chose not to go that route. She’s graduating this December from college, it’s been such a journey.

    1. It is often a long and hard journey but she will be glad she did it I’m sure.

  21. I wish I took a gap year! It would be awesome to had enjoyed a bit more a few years back and really thought of the course I took on college.

    1. It can change what courses people decide to do when they really get a chance to think about what they enjoy and are good at.

  22. I think taking a Gap Year would have been such a great experience! When will you ever have time to do something like that again?!

    1. It’s true. I didn’t take one an then went straight into work. It would have been nice to have even a little break.

  23. I didn’t have the choice of university straight after school as I was living alone so had to work to support myself. I therefore took quite a few gap years. I’m glad I was able to go back later in life though because university was definitely an experience I’m glad I didn’t miss out on.

    1. It can depend on individual circumstances. I went straight in to get it done earlier myself.

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