Should You Gap (Year) or Not?
It’s the question on every school-leaver’s mind – what am I going to do after high school?
We know that it’s been a really tough year, and unfortunately, it’s still not over (2021, where you at?). COVID-19 has turned 2020 into quite the Armageddon, and you’re probably feeling a bit out of whack.
Maybe you want to take a gap year just to recover from the rollercoaster of a year that 2020 has been. You may feel like you need time to physically and mentally recharge before you can even think about opening another textbook. That’s perfectly fine. A gap year isn’t for everyone, but if you feel that you’re desperately needing a break, then it may be a good option for you.
If you don’t want to take a gap year then that’s perfectly fine too – there’s further study, full-time work and internships that are still out there for you.
However, making the choice to take a gap year can be a really stressful and daunting task. There are a lot of factors to consider when making this decision. To help you out, we’ve compiled some of the pros and cons of taking a gap year to help in this process.
Rest and Reflect
You’re probably exhausted from the years of schooling that you’ve just finished, especially since COVID-19 decided to take over your final year of school. Giving yourself some time to rest from the daily grind of high school will help to ease any physical or mental stress that you may be going through. It will also give you some time to reflect on what you truly want to do in this next part of your life.
Now is your chance to take control of your future and – as cliche as it sounds – do what makes you happy, as long as you’re doing something somewhat productive. (Unfortunately, spending the next year binge-watching Netflix doesn’t count.
Save some $$$
Taking the year off to work can be a great way to build up your savings. Although it may be tempting to spend all of your earnings as soon as the money is in your account, saving most of your money will really benefit you in the long run.
Staying at home while working is also a great option because although moving away from home may sound fun, it does come with a lot of not-so-fun bills like rent, power, gas and groceries. Use this time wisely so that once you’re ready to get going, you’ll have a good amount of money to keep you going. It’ll be worth it in the long run!
Travelling is probably one of the first things that come to mind when you think about a gap year. Although COVID-19 has made this option a little trickier, it’s still very much possible as long as you’ve taken the time to save up. This is the perfect time to become a tourist in your own country and explore new places that you’ve always wanted to visit, or never even heard of.
Of course, it’s not the same as an exciting getaway to London or Japan, but you’ll probably enjoy it a little more than you think. Plus, you won’t have to spend nearly as much money to do so (the perks of domestic travel).
Even if you do end up sticking to your pre-COVID budget, you can see and do more things than you could’ve done overseas.
Try new things
A gap year is a perfect time to do all of the fun things that you’ve wanted to do while being bound by the chains of high school. Explore everything that interests you and spend some time learning and practising these new hobbies and skills. Learning a new language, building a workout routine, picking up a new instrument and volunteering for a local charity are just a few options of productive ways to keep yourself entertained.
Trying new things allows you to not only build new skills, but to find out what truly interests you. This can be a good pathway to figuring out what you want to do next, plus it’s a great way to keep you motivated during your gap year.
No one likes missing out on fun events, especially when friends are involved. Everyone knows that university is a huge milestone for school leavers, with all of the inevitable partying, late-night Maccas runs, and most importantly – freedom. It can be easy to feel left behind when you choose to stray away from the status quo.
However, when the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) does hit, it’s important to question yourself. Do you want to study because it’s truly something you’re passionate about doing, or are you just trying to keep up with your mates and have the true “student experience”?
Spoiler alert – the “student experience” isn’t everything it seems. Sure, the social gatherings are great, but don’t forget that hours of studying and countless assignments are part of the deal too.
One of the biggest concerns people have about gap years is the chance that you’ll lose your motivation. Having money in your pocket can make it easier to turn a gap year into a gap-life. You might also be worried that you won’t be able to pick up studying again after a whole year away from it.
To stay on top of this, set goals to practise and learn new skills. Doing so will make sure that you stay on track and help to build a good amount of self-motivation. This is a great skill to have in case you ever do decide to go to university later down the line – plus it’s just a great life skill in general.
Although this may be difficult or tiring at times, remind yourself that current you is doing these things to help out future you. For example, learning to stick to a budget can be a bit of a hassle. However, once you’ve cracked it, you won’t have to stress as much about your financial situation when you’re older because you would’ve put in the hard work sooner rather than later.
Funnily enough, money is both a pro and a con when it comes to gap years. Although working through a gap year can be a great way to save money, spending the whole gap year travelling or getting into the habit of living paycheck-to-paycheck can be an easy way to leave your bank account looking pretty sad.
One way you can overcome this is to have a clear idea of what you want out of your gap year. Figure out your goals and budget accordingly. If you’re working, make sure that you’re covering your expenses and savings before blowing all of your money on food. If you’re travelling, ensure that you’ve got enough to cover every expense on your journey/s.
Keep your goals at the forefront and deal with your money from there. Budgeting isn’t fun, but it’s a part of adulthood and ultimately, an important part of your gap year.
It May Not Be the Right Choice for You
A gap year can be tricky to navigate, and there’s a possibility that you’ll end the year feeling like you haven’t accomplished everything that you wanted to do. This feeling might be even stronger once your friends come home and start sharing their fun experiences.
What you need to remember is that you took a gap year because it was the best choice for you. Just because your friend had an awesome time at uni doesn’t necessarily mean that you would’ve had the same experience. When you feel regret creeping in, just remember all of the reasons that led you to take a gap year. Be proud of yourself for being strong enough to back your decision. If you feel like you need help navigating your future, then feel free to look here.
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer – the choice is yours. What’s important is that you remember that the choices that you make now won’t dictate the rest of your life because you can always make changes when needed.
Remember that what is best for others may not be what’s best for you. Make decisions that sit with your goals and current situation and everything else will come together. Good luck for next year – we hope that 2021 treats you a lot better than 2020 did.