Gap years are becoming increasingly popular among students. For most of those who have spent more than a decade in school, the appeal of a taking a year out from education is undeniable. Besides, who can blame somebody for wanting to take time off? Whilst typically viewed as the perfect opportunity for students to get to know themselves or travel the world, a gap year can also be used for professional development by pursuing internships.
But are gap years truly as valuable as they appear to be? Despite the intended outcomes of a gap year adventure, if not planned correctly it can fail to meet expectations or negatively impact your career prospects. For instance, long employment or education gaps on your CV can at times hinder applications for competitive career programs or job roles.
To help your decision-making process for your year ahead, here are five common misconceptions I’d like to clear up about gap years:
Myth 1: Taking a gap year will help me develop as a student
When making gap year plans, your current “student” routine is not something many think about. Perhaps dreaded at times, your day-to-day school routine does provide you with a daily structure–one that disappears when you take substantial time out. Naturally, when gap year students start university they often notice a decline in their discipline or experience a struggle with getting back into the habit of learning. This can be particularly disruptive at university when independent learning is significant.
Tip: During your gap year aim to maintain a degree of academic interest by reading news, business and thought leadership articles. Try to maintain a level of productivity either by writing a blog or taking up a new hobby or better yet some work experience. Before starting your first term back, be sure to catch up on any pre-term materials and create a study timetable to help you adjust to a manageable routine.
Myth 2: A gap year does not cost much
Students commonly underestimate how much a gap year really costs. It’s not only the short-term financing you have to consider but also how this might impact your longer-term goals. If traveling, be sure to budget your living costs accordingly as having to return home earlier than planned is the last thing you’d want to happen. If you have clear career ambitions or personal goals you want to achieve in the next few years, be sure to understand what the opportunity cost of taking a year out entails. This way your plans aren’t derailed and there are no surprise implications.
Tip: Research all your expenses and budget well. Leave yourself enough money for emergencies and to come home to.
Myth 3: This is my only time to travel
You may feel like its now or never, and going to university will obstruct your dreams of seeing the world. But choosing to study abroad at the right international school, may give you an even richer global experience. You could be living abroad and get the advantage to live like a local. Your classmates will be from around the world–giving you the chance to learn about more than one culture and develop a global network for life. Between winter and summer vacations you’ll also have plenty of time for even more sightseeing.
Tip: Look for a school with a diverse student body, global locations, and attractive rotation options.
Myth 4: I need the gap year to get work experiences on my CV
In comparison to first-year university students, gap year students typically find it harder to obtain work experiences or internships. So whilst taking a year might seem like the professional fast-track, in reality, it could even set you back. If developing your employability is your goal, look at business schools with a strong emphasis on career development. Many colleges and universities have dedicated career teams to help you find summer internships and on some programs, you can be awarded university credits for internships completed–could this be a two in one route for you?
Tip: Speak to a career advisor to help you plan your next steps strategically. If taking a year out to work is more appropriate, try to secure a placement first before deferring higher education.
Myth 5: I need to take an entire year off before studying
You need some time out but don’t want to take a whole year? A gap semester may be the better choice. At Hult, we offer a winter start term beginning in January giving you the best of both. Depending on your plans a gap-term or three months off between school and university may be just what you are looking for. You’ll have the flexibility and time to experience a foreign country complete a summer internship.
Tip: Take some time to figure out what you really want to achieve during your time out. Then research and review what is your best option to help you do that.
Although many students can benefit from resourceful time off, it is important is to plan ahead while not losing focus on long-term goals. Also be aware that going to university can help you tick far more than just the academic box. Keep your options open and whatever choice you make, good luck!
If you would like to find out more about Hult undergraduate program, download a brochure.
Marcus Bleckat is the Director of Enrollment for Germany & Austria. He is passionate about higher education and has been supporting students with their study abroad plans for over five years. He is one of the few people who enjoys public speaking and in his free time, he likes to travel to new places. You can find Marcus on Linkedin.