Taking a gap year

If you want to buy some time or just don’t feel ready to jump straight into more study, then taking a gap year can literally open up the world to you – and it can even increase your chances of academic success.

Gap years are a great idea as long as you put them to good use.  More and more school leavers are opting for a gap year exploring other interests like travel, volunteering in under-developed countries and possibly even working part-time. 

A gap year can even help you academically. According to Professor Andrew Martin, students who gain post-school experience outside the classroom benefit when they eventually go back to do their degrees.

Fact: A study by two Australian economists found that students who take gap years do on average 2.3 per cent better than those who don’t.

— University of Western Australia study, 2007

How do you take a gap year?

If you want to take a gap year before starting your course, you will have to hold off on enrolling in a TAFE (or CIT in ACT) or defer your entry to university for one year. Deferring is when you have received an offer of a place from a university, but you want to put it on hold and begin your course later. You can apply to defer your offer for up to one year from the commencement date on your original letter of offer. See Changing or deferring your course for more details.

Don’t waste your gap year

Gap years can take many forms. The most important thing is to get value out of the year. It should be an opportunity to gain some life experience and also let off some steam before you knuckle down at uni. You may have qualified for university but want to spend a year working so you can save some money to use when you’re studying the following year, or simply to get some work experience. If you didn’t get the HSC results you wanted to get into your preferred uni course, then a year spent studying part-time and working part-time may give you the extra qualifications you need to get into the course – and leave you with money in your pocket.

What to do?

Many students – and parents – like the idea of a student exchange, which generally means spending another year in high school, living with a family or families in another country or a different part of Australia. Many groups offer these exchanges; some links are provided below. There are also organisations that offer free accommodation for volunteers who work for animal welfare or conservation groups. Other organisations offer work teaching English or looking after children.

What’s the verdict?

Gap years often can help you to get a global perspective and a better understanding of some of the issues facing people living in less privileged conditions. A job-focused gap year can also offer you a degree of financial security that you would not otherwise have had.  Apart from the life skills and practical advantages, the time off from study can also help you decide whether you really do want to take the course you have been offered or go in a completely different direction.