To gap year or not to gap year?

If you’re considering taking a year out between school and uni, how do you decide if it’s the right decision for you?

When you’re facing year 12 – either as a student or a parent supporting your child – thoughts of what the future beyond school will hold are probably never far from your mind.

With increasing numbers of students opting for a gap year after they complete high school – the number is estimated at around 20% in Australia1 – how do you decide if it’s the best option for you?

If you’re not sure, it might be worth applying for uni and then deferring for a year. Some courses allow you to defer your studies for 6 months while others will allow you to delay by two years, so strictly speaking, a gap year doesn’t have to be a year long.

Everybody’s situation is different, but we’ve looked at some of the pros and cons of taking a gap year in the table below to help you make the decision. 

Pros and cons of a gap year

Pros Cons
You may be fresher for uni if you take a break between your studies.
It might be better to continue studying while you’re still in that mindset.
It gives you more time to work out what you want to study and your career options, if you’re still unsure.
If you know what you want to do career wise, the sooner you graduate, the sooner you’ll be able to do it.
It gives you a chance to get life experience after school through work, volunteering or travel.
There is a risk that taking a gap year may lead you to abandon your plans to study at uni completely.
A University of Sydney study suggests that students who take a gap year achieve better results at uni than both students who go to uni straight after school and mature age students2.
Not all uni courses allow you to defer, and your access to scholarships may be affected if you decide to take a gap year, as some scholarships come with a no deferral policy.

Options beyond a gap year

The most common things to do while on a gap year include getting some work experience, undertaking study or training (somewhere other than a uni) and travelling,3 but perhaps a gap year isn’t the only way to achieve your goals.

If your reason for wanting to take a gap year is to travel, you could consider an international study exchange, or take shorter trips in your uni breaks.

If it’s work experience you’re seeking, look into internships, or studying part-time may be another option to balance study with work.

And if you’re still finding it hard to decide, you could give uni a go, and always defer in your second or third year instead.

What about money?

As with most big decisions, there are some financial considerations associated with taking a gap year.

Uni is a big financial commitment, whether you pay for it upfront or use the Government’s HELP/HECS scheme. So it’s important to make sure you’re spending your money on a course that represents the right path for you.

Or if you do decide to become a “gapper”, you’ll need to consider whether you have the funds to do all the things you want in your year off. If travel is on your agenda, you might need to look at working first to get some money behind you or working along the way.

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Any advice in this page is general in nature and is provided by AMP Life Limited ABN 84 079 300 379 (AMP Life). The advice does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Therefore, before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of this advice having regard to those matters. AMP Bett3r Account is issued by AMP Bank Limited ABN 15 081 596 009, AFSL 234517. Consider the terms and conditions available on request by calling 13 30 30 or at amp.com.au/bett3r and whether this product is appropriate for you. Fees and charges apply.

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