Taking a gap year is one of the many opportunities you may consider as you near the end of high school. To help you make this big decision, GIE blogger Bella has gotten advice from some current UNSW Engineering students about what to consider when deciding whether to gap.
1. Is there something specific you want to do?
Many people take gap years because they’ve always wanted to do a special program where they go abroad or volunteer for an extended period of time. If there’s something you’ve always been itching to do, chances are you won’t have the opportunity to take a whole year off for a while. Have a browse at some of the awesome gap programs, look at online forums and talk to people you know about their gap years. There are some great opportunities out there, but they’re not for everyone so really think about whether there is anything specific you want to experience or achieve during the year.
2. Could you do it in your holidays?
The summer break between school and uni can be over three months long, meaning you have a fair amount of time to work, travel or do a summer program. A lot of people take gap years because they want to travel or work for an extended period of time. I personally toyed with the idea of a gap year because I wanted to travel to South East Asia and also save up for university. However, when I worked out my travel plans and looked at the uni breaks, I realised that I could easily travel during the winter break and work all summer. Now, that might not be the case for everyone, but it’s worth considering whether you can achieve some of your potential gap goals over the holidays.
3. Are you ready to study again?
After the intensity of the HSC, it is easy to feel burnt out. Study might seem like the last thing in the world that you want to do. Alternatively, you might be keen to begin university straight away and hit the books. It’s important to be honest with yourself as to whether you think you need a break.
4. Do you know what you want to study?
Choosing what to study at university can be extremely daunting and confusing. (True story: “I don’t know what to do with my life?!” was my constant train of thought throughout Year 12). If you’re not sure what to do after school, taking a year off can help you to figure things out. Most people work for at least some of their gap year so it can be a great opportunity to get some work experience in fields you are interested in. This might help clarify what you want to study in the future. That said, switching degrees at uni is relatively easy during first year so don’t think that you must take a gap year if you’re a smidge unsure about what to study.
5. Do you have the money?
The reality is that gap years tend to cost a bit of money, especially if you want to travel. It’s important to be realistic about how much your gap year plans will cost. That said, lots of people work for a significant proportion of their gap year, and it can be a great way to save up for university. Either way, you will probably have to work for a fair amount of the year so think about whether this is something you’d be willing to do.
6. Could you take a half gap-year?
Lots of universities, including UNSW, have a mid-year intake for most degrees. This means you can take a “half gap year” and begin university in June to September, depending on the university. This can be a great compromise which allows you to take a break, work or travel for an extended period of time without having to delay university for a whole year. (Tip: It’s also a great option to float with your parents if they’re not super keen on gap years!)