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To gap — or not to gap?

With college applications in full swing, it’s the perfect time to discuss the pros and cons of taking a “gap year”. As going to college/university is a huge intellectual and financial commitment, it’s particularly important to do the research and carefully think through all viable options.

Is gap year for you?

If jumping straight into higher education after twelve years of classroom-based learning isn’t exactly your dream-come-true, then a gap year might be just what you need to regenerate enthusiasm for further study.

In fact, deferring entry into undergraduate or postgraduate study is becoming an increasingly popular option among young Americans seeking unique experiences that would normally be inaccessible in a school environment.

Students who decide to take time away from education most commonly spend it by traveling, teaching English abroad, volunteering, or by taking up full or part-time jobs or internships. All these options can serve as good opportunities for individuals to gain a better understanding of their aspirations, motivations and interests.

What do employers think about it?

In the eyes of many employers, gathering relevant work experience during a gap year shows a candidate’s maturity and commitment to achieving career-oriented goals. In addition to capturing a recruiter’s attention, a well spent gap year gives plenty to talk about in an interview. Those who have had a successful gap year should use that opportunity to highlight their personal growth explaining what they’ve achieved during their time away from school. 

Equally, securing an internship or getting involved in volunteering might help you stand a higher chance of getting into a competitive program in college. Oftentimes, admissions are done based on the overall profile of the candidate, where extracurricular work is just as important as good grades. 

What to keep in mind?

Despite its many clear advantages, a gap year is not without potential risks and drawbacks. Those considering taking time away from education should approach it with caution and have a clear plan. Keep in mind that postponing college/university naturally strays away from a more traditional path, and sometimes it can be challenging to get back on it. If not carefully planned, a gap year might turn into a prolonged vacation, which could put you in an unfavourable position in front of future employers or college admissions teams. So if you’re seriously thinking of taking a gap year, set yourself a timeline with short term and long term goals – and stick to it!

Is a gap year a good idea for everyone?

Adzuna’s in-house recruitment specialists warn that although in many cases a gap year can be a very rewarding experience, it may not be the best option for everyone. For individuals wishing to pursue a career in industries like healthcare and pharmaceutics, taking a break from education might setback their careers. Since professionals in these sectors are required to be up to date with the latest guidelines, a gap year might effectively put a person at a disadvantage to students with an uninterrupted academic record. 

A gap year should always be a well thought through decision, given maximum preparation. To avoid getting distracted and discouraged from going back to the world of academia, it’s important to never lose sight of your ultimate goals. Regardless if you decide to spend your time solo traveling to distant parts of the world or by taking up part time work, a gap year gives you the chance to pursue meaningful experiences, which will lead to a more fulfilling career in the future.