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 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”.
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 RATLIFF, University student and casual editorial assistant.