Should I take a gap year before university?
Before I began my studies at JECRC University in Jaipur, I decided to take a gap year. It was an opportunity for me to take some time for myself, redefine my values and gain clarity on what I really wanted to do.
I chose to remain in India for my gap year to take on several different opportunities and roles and gain more real-life experience. I found out what it’s like to work in an office, I volunteered at my local high school and tutored school students. The hours were flexible enough that I could go travelling for a week here and there. I also learned a lot about myself during that time.
What is a gap year?
A gap year is when students take time off between school graduation and university enrolment. Gap years can provide students with a break from education and are usually used to figure out what you want to do with your life after school.
A gap year can take many different forms. You could spend time working, complete an internship, volunteer, or travel. These activities can be done independently or as part of an organised gap year programme.
Choosing to take a gap year can be a difficult decision. Will it be the right decision? Will it put you off going to university? Will you miss opportunities if you go straight to university? There’s a lot to consider.
A lot of people were concerned about me making the best decision for my future. Family members wanted me to go straight to university, school tutors encouraged me to change my decision and study. It made me feel unsure about what was best, but I knew I needed some time to really understand what I want to do with my life. Ultimately, the urge to take a gap year outweighed my fears.
People talk a lot about the positives of taking a gap year, but it’s important to be realistic and know that not every day will be amazing. Just like anything, there are ups and downs. Travelling can sometimes feel tiring rather than freeing, and there can be times when you feel stuck. You’ll probably feel a variety of emotions throughout your journey, and that’s fine!
While taking a gap year after school can benefit many students, it’s not for everyone. Before making a decision, consider the following pros and cons.
Pros of taking a gap year
Gain valuable life skills
Gaining experience in the workplace by taking on a job or internship can teach you about life after university and provide valuable skills for successfully managing professional life.
I used my gap year to learn a variety of important life skills. I learned new languages while living in different Indian states. I honed communication and leadership skills while working on a freelance writing project and gained hands-on experience through an internship.
There are lots of different ways to learn and grow on a gap year.
Discover new horizons
Travelling and living away from my hometown during my gap year was a life-changing experience. While I was nervous about travelling on my own, I immersed myself into a new culture, learned a new language and started to see the world with a different lens.
Seeing life beyond my hometown helped me to realise that a more exciting, global future is possible for me. Another important benefit was the general sense of knowing my historical identity and my culture which I wasn’t very familiar with until I took a gap year. By taking time out, I was able to explore my roots by visiting Rajasthan, where I come from. Rajasthan is filled with vibrant colours and culture, and the food is mind-blowing.
Develop your CV
One of the main reasons I decided to take a gap year was to actively invest my time in enhancing my professional experiences and to develop my CV. The experiences I gained have significantly contributed to making my CV stand out, both for university and for my career when I graduate.
Thanks to the extracurricular activities I pursued during my gap year, I secured a part-time job at an edtech company and within a year I’ve earned a promotion to the role of marketing specialist.
Go to university feeling recharged and motivated
Because of my gap year, I had a chance to mature and gain life experiences before starting college. This helped me to be more focused and motivated in my studies.
The Indian education system is like a marathon. After sitting in high school for years, my body needed a break. The gap year gave me renewed energy and vigour to study in college with a more focused and refreshed mindset.
My parents were concerned that I would not be able to be as focused a student after my gap year. However, to their surprise, the gap year actually helped me to be more focused and prepared for college.
After seeing the world from a new perspective during my gap year, situations that overwhelm students in their early college days became less stressful for me. I was able to handle them easily.
Earn money and build your savings
Taking a gap year can be expensive, but it can also be a great way to make money if you choose to work. By choosing a mix of travelling and working, I still managed to save some money for university. Working at a computer training centre gave me a decent income so I could spend some and put some away for my studies.
If you’re struggling with money, I suggest looking for an online job to help you fund your gap year. I did some freelancing on the side too, which gave me a little extra cash and helped me to build my skills. I was so proud of myself for being able to earn my own money and not have to rely on my parents before I even started my studies.
Cons of taking a gap year
A lack of structure can lead to wasted time
An unstructured gap year can sometimes lead to time being wasted and academic stagnation. I understood that, if I intended to explore on my own for a portion of my gap year, I had to make sure to clearly outline goals I could achieve.
I also shared my plans with trusted individuals who could hold me accountable if needed. I was aware that the worst-case scenario for a gap year would jeopardise my academic advancement by indulging in activities like excessive video gaming, TV watching, and unproductive lounging at home.
Travelling can be expensive
Gap year programmes and travel often come with significant expenses. To make informed decisions, I ensured I had a comprehensive understanding of the total cost of my trip, taking into account any hidden expenses that may arise.
To ensure you don’t exhaust your savings, I suggest planning your gap year accordingly. I had saved up for this purpose and, with a part-time job, earned a sufficient amount to cover my travel expenses and food. Before I took my gap year, I made a savings plan and a budget for travelling.
If you can’t afford to travel abroad, think about travelling within your own country and going on different adventures you wouldn’t usually experience. It’s amazing what you can find on your doorstep.
Potential loneliness and a fear of missing out
Seeing my friends leave for university and seeing them share their experiences in their new lives created a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) within me.
Knowing that I would be going through those experiences a year later than my friends sometimes made me feel like I was falling behind. However, I reminded myself that taking a gap year would not have any negative impact on my professional prospects.
Eventually, I reassured myself that I would still have the opportunity to experience university in a short while, plus I’d have an array of additional experiences that others didn’t.
Transitioning back to education can feel difficult
During my gap year, I was fully disengaged from education and studying and I realised that taking a long break from learning could potentially make it harder for me to transition into university life.
To prevent this challenge, I actively sought ways to stay engaged and challenged myself with material that aligned with the subject I wanted to study at university: computer science.
Throughout my gap year, I set a goal for myself to learn new skills or explore topics that fascinated me. I also spent some of my gap year applying to university and confirming my place on a computer science degree in Jaipur.
Going back to a full schedule of classes and homework can feel intense, so make sure you get all the support you can from your university and don’t feel too frustrated with yourself while you adapt.
Should you take a year off?
A gap year is not for everyone, and it depends on your goals and ambitions. Think about the reasons you want to take a gap year and what you’d like to get out of it. Consider your budget and the type of gap year you’ll be able to fund.
If it’s fear of the unknown you’re dealing with, remind yourself that stepping out of your comfort zone leads to personal growth. A gap year could be the perfect way to learn about yourself before you start the next chapter of your life.
Though it‘s fine to spend time relaxing and taking a break from studying, try not to spend your entire gap year feeling unfocused and aimless and to use the time to learn something new for yourself that will help you move forward. A year isn’t a very long time and it can run away from you quickly, so give yourself a purpose and goals to work towards.
Now will it turn out to be positive or negative? That’s up to only you!
I learned an important lesson early on this year: to truly make something out of myself, I must immerse myself in as many aspects of life as possible.
Lastly, I would like to take this moment to express my gratitude to everyone I have encountered on this incredible journey. Each person has profoundly influenced me, imparting valuable lessons and creating cherished memories that will forever remain close to my heart.