True or false: Students who take gap years perform better at university.

 

A new study released by the University of Sydney has linked gap years (a year’s break from study between school and university) to better university grades and ‘heightened self organisation’. Reportedly, teenagers who go on gap years ace their studies and that the students who don’t take a year off, well, don’t do as well at uni.

We thought we’d ask some people who’ve actually experienced it whether or not the study has any merit. iVillage writer Kahla took a gap year. And Mamamia Editorial Assistant Elissa did not. The writers had very different opinions on the subject. Here’s what they had to say…

Kahla
Kahla

KAHLA PRESTON, University graduate and writer

When I finished Year 12, two things about my future were certain – a) I would not be pursuing a maths-based career, and b) I would take a gap year before uni.

That decision was largely pragmatic. I wanted to earn my financial independence and qualify for Youth Allowance so I could support myself, move to the ‘big smoke’ and follow my dreams (so, basically the plot of every bad dance movie you’ve ever seen).

But it was also something I wanted to do for myself. After working my butt off in Year 12 I needed to put down the books and experience that mystical thing they call “the real world”.

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Yes – I am a gap year enthusiast. I can’t say whether my uni marks would have been different if I didn’t have 12 months off – but I know my mindset would have been. After a year of full-time office work, I felt even more secure in my decision to return to the classroom and work towards the career I wanted.

Admittedly, first year was still a challenge – yes, there were tears – but I know I was better prepared for it than if I’d started straight after high school. My friends who ventured overseas to work, learn languages or ‘find themselves’ (…at the bottom of a plate of authentic Italian pasta) would probably say the same about their experiences.

The Sydney University study found gap years can enhance a student’s skills and help them figure out what they really want. It makes sense – doing something different for a year, whether it’s working, volunteering or dodging bedbugs in European hostels broadens your horizons and your perspective.

I found that, in many cases, there was a clear attitude difference between gap year students and our straight-from-school counterparts – especially those who still considered HSC results and high school status to be relevant topics of conversation. It’s so easy to get caught up in that bubble of essays and studying and forget about the bigger picture.

Do gap years suit everyone? No. Twelve months off from study is enough to completely lure some people away from it for good. Additionally, for those embarking on longer degrees like Medicine, a gap year might unnecessarily lengthen the process. However, I’m yet to meet anybody who regretted their decision to take one. It’s definitely worth considering.

Elissa
Elissa

ELISSA RATLIFF, University student and casual editorial assistant.

Why? That was my answer to a question about taking a Gap Year in 2011.

Having just finished my HSC I was bombarded with the usual inquiries of ‘What will you do with your life?’ but the most common question I received was ‘Are you taking a Gap Year?

To me, and a lot of my friends, the short answer to that question was no; we knew what we wanted to do and where we wanted to be. Why did we need a year off?  We only finished High School – it’s not like we were running the country.

Why did we need to spend money travelling now, when we could travel and work with a degree later? Why would we want to be two years behind, when we could be finished our degrees by the time half of our friends get back from a year off?

To many brain-fried 18 year olds the idea of a gap year is extremely appealing. Traveling, partying, new people, new places, independence – time to ‘find yourself’ (and the odd bit of work, of course).

But now according to the University of Sydney there is a new study that links Gap Years to more successful grades at University. Well I’m calling bollocks on that.

Gone are the days when a Gap Year meant taking a year off to earn money so you could get Youth Allowance. That all went down the drain in 2009 when the new 18-month’s work at an average of 30 hours per week policy was introduced.

Today they are mainly used as an excuse to live overseas and party, as opposed to saving money. Whilst doing multiple Top Deck tours and learning copious amounts of drinking games during a year is fun, how does it heighten your study routine? And furthermore make you more driven to succeed? You travel, you shop, you spend, and you party with different people in different countries.

Fantastic experiences yes, but experiences that can only be made at this part of life? No. Yes you come away with different skills, but you will be a year behind everyone else, and the study routine you spent the past 13 years developing during school will be broken.

Fact, Gap Years don’t suit everyone, and nor does going straight to Uni. My decision not to have a Gap year was the best thing I ever did.  From 16 I knew I wanted to be a writer, and now I have one year left in my degree. I have learnt so much through experience and study that would not have been possible had I taken a gap year- and as opposed to what the study says, my grades are above average.

Ultimately you have to choose the path that is going to suit you best, but if you know what you want to do, or have a long degree ahead of you – why prolong it?

Alright everyone, time to take sides? What makes for a better university career; taking or not taking a gap year? Did you take one? Would you do it differently if you could go back? Would you want your own kids to take a break between school and university?

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