Twelve years of sitting behind a school desk is no joke. Ask any person who has passed matric before. It’s no wonder then that some pupils consider taking some time off to relax or get working experience, but what should you know before taking a gap year?

The general pros of taking a gap year include working to earn some cash you can use for when you want to go to tertiary, gaining experience that will go onto your CV, meet new people, see new places and generally take a load off.

“However, a gap year is not for everyone,” says Jill Young Schutte, Founder of EvenMe. “Although a gap year can help you rejuvenate and give you some time and space to yourself, it’s not beneficial for everyone. You’re essentially postponing your career by a year. Plus, the gap year itself can be expensive, especially if you want to explore new places and do new things! You could also get lonely if all your friends have gone to study and they’re making new circles of friends while you’re sitting on the side-line.”

“There is a risk that you will end up sitting in front of the TV for a year most of the year because you haven’t got any money and you’ve missed all the registration dates. Plus, some people really battle to get back into the swing of things after a year of lazing about. Think carefully before you decide to take a gap year,” Young Schutte adds.

She offers the following tips for those who decide to go ahead and take a gap year:

1. Check with the university you’re going to whether you can apply for a deferred entry for the degree you want to get into in the year after your gap year. This normally involves putting down a deposit. This isn’t such a bad thing – it will help you to commit to going back to study.

2. Show something for your gap year. Even if you’re determined not to pick up a single book during your gap year, volunteer somewhere or work part-time. Show that you did something worthwhile on your CV.

3. Why not improve your marks? If there’s a matric subject you feel you could have done better at or it would benefit you to get better marks in one or two of your subjects, why not study and rewrite those papers so you can improve your chances of getting into a field or into a university.

4. Plan properly! A year goes by so fast and before you know it, it’s over. Remember, you can take a gap year after you finish your tertiary studies too so don’t take a gap year unless you’ve planned it properly.

5. And finally, take it all in! The freedom, the time and the experiences… Appreciate it and use it to deepen your experience of life!
A gap year can help you gain perspective in life and think seriously about what you want to do with your career but use it wisely otherwise it will be a waste of 12 months that you will never be able to recoup.

There are tons of places you can go to and sites you visit to enquire about gap year opportunities. Be very careful though of possible scams posing as gap year programmes. Some could be trying to get money out of you or even worse – traffic you into some form of slavery. Do thorough research and look up online whether a programme is legit or not programme up.

Once you’ve found something to do that suits you, enjoy every moment and take away from the experience as much as you can.

[Image – CC0 Public Domain]