Taking the Gap

Taking the Gap

 There are some merits to taking a gap year. Just make sure that you apply to study before you go, then defer your studies for when you get back.

What is a gap year? A gap year is a year of adventure and personal exploration, usually taken after school and before studying.   

There are benefits to taking a gap year, in fact this research from Harvard University encourages their students to defer their studies to take a gap year. Note I said defer, in other words the students they are talking about, had already applied and were accepted before requesting the University to defer their studies. 

It is however a priviledge to be able to do this when you are young. The older you get the more responsibilities you have and the less time you have to do the things you wish you could have done.

So if you take a gap year, what are you going to do? No really! If you are planning to take a gap year, make sure you have an idea of what you want to do after you return home. My advice … apply anyway, pay the application fee (not that much), even if you are not sure exactly what you want to study. If you are not sure then do the PACE Career Questionnaire, it may help you to see what career fields interest you, and it’s free.

Our universities have limited places available, so most people who apply don’t get in. In fact our top universities receive way more applications than they can accept. Check whether you meet the minimum entry requirements based on your subjects and marks. Here is what I suggest:

Get your applications done then defer your studies:

  • Get your applications done in Grade 11 and plan as if you are going to study after school. Don’t wait and say, I’ll figure it all out after I get back! Seriously, I can’t support that!
  • By doing this you will reassure your parents that you are serious about studying when you get back.
  • Check with the University or College you are applying to, that you can defer your studies and check what deposits and securities need to be paid to ensure that you have a place when you get back.
  • Apply to study at at least two institutions - get your applications in on time. You need to apply in your Grade 11 year based on your marks in Grade 11.
  • Then if you do decide not to study you can defer your applications for a year and at least you have secured your place for when you get back.

Consider where to go? - Stay at home or travel or both?

There is no single "right choice," but consider all the options and budget required.

  • If you stay at home,
- Plan a structured gap year with some time visiting relatives (grandparents, family), do volunteer work, part-time work or do courses that interest you, i.e. diving, bartending, photography, web design, etc etc.
- Build contacts in areas that interest you
- Staying in South Africa is an cheaper alternative for a gap year
  •  If you plan on travelling overseas,
- Carefully consider what it will cost and if you can come up with the funds
- To help fund your gap year overseas, investigate work opportunities, like a bartender, cook, waiter, aupair, English teacher (Investigate the working and Visa requirements in the different countries you are interested in)
- Choose a country, where you can learn a second language, like Spanish, French, German or Chinese, this could be of benefit in later employment.
- If you want to serve other people or contribute to help animals or the environment? Then investigate available options and volunteer.
- Consider teaching? Teach English to people in other countries, as you can earn a salary and travel during your breaks. Investigate the available opportunities for this.

Save up, Compare costs and do a Budget:

  • Consider, taking a buddy with you on your gap year so that you can share the costs of accommodation (it’s also great to have company and to share the experience).
  • Find a volunteer organisation willing to accommodate and feed you in a country you would like to visit so that you can travel but have the basic costs covered.
  • If you have family abroad then shack up with them or use them as a base (they will be delighted to have you for a year – but maybe check with them first).
  • Check out which countries have the best exchange rate and value for money?
  • Investigate the cost of visa requirements, air fares, backpacking lodges, other accomodation, etc, for for the countries you are interested in.
  • Get a part-time job before travelling so you can earn some money to put towards your gap year (this will help to convince your parents that you are serious about it).  

So if you told me you have no idea of what you want to do after school, I may agree that there is some merit in taking some time off. There is even some research to suggest that a gap year may even be beneficial. If you don’t come right with your parents, perhaps negotiate to take the gap year after you have finished studying.

Sites for you to visit to find out more: