Gone is the pressure of grabbing that first university offer – these days, Australians (and students across Europe and most recently, America) are taking on the “gap year”: a year-long break in between studies to learn more about themselves, their goals, and the world around them.
Studies show that one in four school-leavers now decide to take a “gap year” before pursuing further study, a practice that’s shown to offer more career and academic benefits than at first glance.
Here at the AIICT blog, we’re diving into the main benefits of taking a gap year – and why it may be the answer to all your post-high school uncertainties.
Provides an opportunity to “find yourself”
Above all benefits, plenty of graduates (or current university students) choose to take a gap year to better reflect on their career, educational, and life goals with clarity. Being away from the books and constrictive schedules lets one tap into areas they truly wish to explore – whether its pursuing the arts or contributing to a charity that matters to them. According to the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research, more than half of “gap-takers” turn to temporary work experience, full-time vocational study, or travel.
The introspection a gap year provides thus refines one’s sense of purpose, helping them plan out their next steps and challenges in life.
In an article for the Sydney Morning Herald, Patrick Brannigan shares his transitional period between college and university. After finishing his VCE at Daylesford Secondary College, he then decided his next best step was an arts degree at Melbourne University.
Unfortunately, it was a quick decision that ultimately “lacked the direction [he] thought [he] needed at the time”, and eventually led to him dropping out.
Thankfully, this choice offered him the breathing room to step back, analyse his situation, contemplated on what he truly wanted to do. The time off gave him a “better understanding of [him]self” and his future career choices.
In the same piece, Professor Andrew Martin from the University of Sydney shares his support on the practice, referencing studies that found greater motivation among students who had taken a gap year, compared to those who pursued university straight out of school.
Has a positive impact on further study
The statistics are also in favour of those who do pursue tertiary studies after a gap year.
Research has found that taking the year off to “find yourself” successfully rejuvenates your drive and motivation, particularly in the realm of academics. This connects to the statistical tendency for Australian students to take a gap year if they had low academic performance and or ambition in high school – upon entering university, a significant portion claim to have experienced “higher motivation”.
In fact, a study by Sydney University researchers – surveying over 900 first-year students at their campus – supports this outcome, and additionally demonstrates a boost in academic performance among former “gappers” in their first few semesters of university.
UK-based studies also showed that 60% of gap-takers formed a clearer idea of what degree they wished to pursue, and 66% claimed to have taken their academic work “more seriously” as a result.
Such motivational effects are due to the enhanced confidence, independence, and skillsets one acquires during a gap year, along with cultivated self-direction, self-regulation, and decision-making abilities.
A year to evaluate their options, broaden their perspectives, and embrace personal growth can help students come to productive career and academic decisions with greater conviction; while re-igniting the drive to pursue such goals.
Allows you to travel and learn about the world
When the word “gap year” comes to mind, most people think about travel – and tons of it.
Going on a global (or even local) adventure presents plenty of opportunity to make lasting new friendships and broaden your outlook on the ways of the world. It’s also a fitting time to engage yourself in causes or volunteer work you have a passion for; such as helping out conservation groups, teaching disadvantaged communities, and participating in community development programs.
Then of course, there’s the new people you meet along your journey, whether fellow travellers or locals in the region. This helps you make new connections and expand your network; you never know when one may turn out to be a valuable future connection.
Additionally, you may also find yourself picking up a new language or two – a much-respected skill among most businesses, especially those involved in international affairs. It’s a sign of your engagement with other cultures, your communicative abilities and your drive for personal development.
As such, travelling during a gap year not only lets you revel in new, unfamiliar lifestyles – there’s also the chance of making a difference in the parts of the world that need it most. You’ll grow in both your global awareness and soft skills, both of which are bound to stand out among future employers.
Provides an opportunity to gain work experience
Some gap-takers choose to dive right into the world of work and get a first-hand feel for their industry.
UK studies show that 80% of students believed a gap year added to their employability, as it gave them time to work on their skills, build professional connections, and gain an entry-level start in their chosen field.
Keep in mind that if you’re straight out of high school or taking a year off an undergraduate degree, you might not get the most glamorous opportunities. But if it contributes to your resume in some form, or builds your experience in a certain area – then it’s well worth your time. Additionally, you’ll make new contacts who may just pave the way for new career opportunities, and provide you with valuable industry expertise.
To boost your chances of employment, some countries have work abroad programs in place – helping gap-takers successfully pursue a working holiday. Australia has plenty of these available for overseas visitors, guiding them throughout the process from the applications to the job placements.
Even if you don’t acquire a full-time, temporary job, you can also gain networking and work-related experience through workshops, conferences, and apprenticeships. Some choose to pursue vocational training in a field of their interest, equipping them with employable, practical competencies to get ahead in the job market.
Though not a choice for everyone, a gap year can offer individuals with the time and experience they need to sort out their career, academic, and personal goals. It’s a chance to venture on a self-reflective sabbatical; meeting fresh-new faces, soaking up new cultures – while at the same time, finding your passions and building on your employment prospects.
If you’re fresh out of school and unsure on the road ahead, perhaps the clarity of a gap year is just what you need.
Looking to build your skills?
As mentioned, many of those who take a gap year choose to build on their work-ready skills through vocational education and training (VET).
At AIICT (Australian Institute of ICT), we offer online qualifications in the thriving field of information technology. With courses that touch on website development, cybersecurity, and more; those with a passion for computers and online technology can acquire the hands-on, practical experience they’re after to get their start in the industry.
These programs offer vendor-certified, nationally-accredited training that’s delivered 100% online, letting you study as you travel.
Get valuable, job-ready experience for Australia’s ICT industry, and get in touch with our experts today.