Education News

Is a gap year the right thing?

Source: Solidarity World – By Emsie Martin

Published: 23 July 2019


Because many school-leavers are still unsure about their future plans, the habit of taking a year off after school has become very popular in South Africa. According to Dr ST Potgieter, psychologist in Belville, a gap year is like a sandwich: It is that slice of meat between two slices of bread; a gap year between your school years and your further studies and/or career.

Frequently asked questions:

  • What is better, to take a gap year or to tackle your further studies immediately?
  • What should I do in this year?
  • What are the pros and cons?
  • Isn’t it a waste of time?

What is better, to take a gap year or to tackle your further studies immediately?

Often it is not so easy to answer this question. It is a solution for those who are still unsure of their study choices, want to save up money for their studies, want to gain life experience or who are tired of studying and first want to do something else before starting their university studies. It depends on a person’s unique circumstances, personality and future plans.

What should I do in this year?

There are hundreds of things to do. It is a year in which you can tackle things to enjoy, visit other countries to work there or to travel. In this year you might take up courses for personal growth, such as photography, creativity or leadership. The possibilities are endless and young people should reflect on what they want to achieve with the gap year.

What are the pros?

Students who have taken a gap year, experience a feeling of greater maturity and consider themselves to be self-reliant, responsible and independent. Interpersonal skills are developed and self-confidence improves. According to them, your outlook on life changes, your perspective broadens and you are no longer as naïve about life. It also gives you time to reflect on your career.

What are the cons?

One disadvantage could be that a young person who has experienced freedom will not want to return to study further as it is difficult to get involved in academic activities once again, although this certainly need not be the case. Many young people first Do a stint in the army or take a gap year and start their studies afterwards. Others sometimes feel that they miss their families and initially felt very alone. Sometimes they struggle to start studying again after a year. They feel they are a year behind and will only be able to start their career a year later.

Is it a waste of time?

There are parents and learners who reason that a gap year does not really make any meaningful contribution to young people’s further studies and career development. One of the biggest misconceptions is that it gives a young person time to sort out his career choice. Sometimes young people return after a year overseas and still don’t know what they want to do. A proper career evaluation is necessary before you take a gap year. However, the reality is that you are so busy that not a lot of attention is paid to career choices.

TIP: It is important to realize that a gap year is not one fun-filled long holiday. Young people should keep themselves busy with meaningful activities and that requires good planning. Determine your expectations and aims before you decide for or against a gap