That is the question: Many freshly graduated year twelves take time off after high school to travel or work before heading on to further studies, but is it the right move for everyone? (Image source: Travel and Leisure)
By Nikita Skuse | @nikita_skuse
Completing 13 years of schooling is an achievement any student would be proud of, and one many celebrate by taking a gap year.
However, the decision to take one often doesn’t come lightly.
Societal pressure to get a degree and start a career as soon as possible versus burnout from so many years in the education system can cause quite the internal conflict.
Three current university students, all who have different experiences with the topic, have weighed in on the big question swarming many young people’s minds right now — “Should I take a gap year?”
Matthew Schultz enjoying himself in between work during his gap year. (Image source: Matthew Schultz)
Matthew Schultz is an Education student at Flinders University who, after much hesitation and contemplation at the time, took a gap year between high school and university.
Mr Schultz took his gap year in order to save money and recharge himself.
“I felt mentally burnt out from the last two years of high school and thought that a break may be the best thing for me,” he said.
“Also, I felt comfortable at home and I wasn’t excited to leave yet.”
Mr Schultz’s gap year consisted mainly of working.
He was employed at his local bakery six days a week and only took one week of holidays during that time for a vacation to Melbourne.
Although he said his working gap year may not have been as exciting as many other people’s gap years, on the whole it made him feel good and keener to go back to studying, as well as giving him financial stability.
Mr Schultz’s family home is in the Barossa Valley which is an almost four hours round trip to Flinders, so he said commuting to university wasn’t an option for him and he had to move out of home to study.
“Without my gap year I wouldn’t have been able to financially support myself,” Mr Schultz said.
However, Mr Schultz said he struggled to find motivation when going back to study after his year away from it.
“Getting back into the swing of things with assignments and deadlines was a struggle,” he said.
“Motivation was difficult for me to find because I’d gotten so comfortable in my routine of working and leaving stress behind.”
In saying this, he still did not have any regrets about taking his gap year, in fact he said he wished he’d taken two or three gap years instead and is considering taking another next year.
“I still worry about being behind my peers, but ultimately I wouldn’t call that a regret,” he said.
“I only ever hear people saying, ‘I wish I took a gap year’, I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, ‘damn, why’d I take my gap year?’”
Mr Schultz’s final verdict on the topic is if you’re thinking about taking a gap year, just do it.
“If you are hesitant about your future studies, they will always be there to come back to, take a breath and give yourself a break,” he said.
“Even if you are certain of what your future will be, there’s no harm in taking time off and experiencing something else in life.
“If nothing else, it’s a handy tool for the ‘get to know you’ activities that you’ll have to go through in every university tutorial.”
Caitlin Dutschke visiting Greece during her mid-year university break. (Image source: Caitlin Dutschke)
Caitlin Dutschke is a Business and Marketing graduate from UniSA who is now studying a master’s degree in Tourism and Event Management.
She made the choice not to take a gap year.
“I went straight to university because I wanted to become independent and move away from home to branch out and also because I felt like I wouldn’t want to study if I took a year off,” Ms Dutschke said.
At just 20 years old Ms Dutschke has finished her degree and started her master’s degree and at 21 will hopefully be working full time in her industry.
She said that going to university straight after high school and at a younger age has had its advantages and disadvantages.
“I’ll have to compete for jobs with older people who might have more life experience than me,” Ms Dutschke said.
“But it’s given me the opportunity to study more if I want to and I’ll still be young enough to work in marketing.
“Also, seeing all of my friends have gap years and saving up heaps of money made me feel sad because I was like, ‘ugh, I’m not doing that’, but now that I’m at the end of my degree I think it was good to be motivated at a young age.
“I do sometimes regret not taking a gap year because I would be more financially stable now if I had taken one to save more money, I wouldn’t need to rely on Centrelink or help from my parents.”
However, Ms Dutschke didn’t miss out on much by going straight to university as she still managed to fit many of the typical gap year experiences in between her university studies.
“I’ve worked part-time for most of my study and I’ve managed to travel overseas twice while studying as well,” she said.
“I fit travelling in with my studies by going on my holiday breaks because my course only goes for ten weeks in a semester, so I have longer holidays than other people.”
And despite the few disadvantages she’s experienced, Ms Dutschke believes that the good that comes from going straight to university outweighs the bad and would recommend not taking a gap year to other students.
“Being a young person at university is such a cool experience and makes you feel like you’re an adult but not quite an adult,” she said.
Maddi Hegarty along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage during her gap year. (Image source: Love From Madeline)
Maddi Hegarty is an Intercultural Studies student at Tabor College who is currently taking a gap year during the middle of her studies, before completing her final year next year.
Ms Hegarty chose to have this gap year to go on what she described as, “the trip of a lifetime” — walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage through France and Spain as a way to clear her head.
“I was at a point in my life where I needed space to rest and to reflect, part of which was reflecting on where my university course had taken me so far, and where I’d like to go with it in the future,” Ms Hegarty said.
She has also been working three part-time jobs while she has the extra time and taking the opportunity to do all of the little tasks she’d been putting off while studying.
Ms Hegarty said travelling in the middle of her degree proved to be very beneficial to her learning as well.
“I study Intercultural Studies, so travelling for six weeks felt almost like a six-week university practical,” she said.
“I was able to put my learning into practice, and experience other cultures that will enrich my knowledge when I head back to uni.
“I think we can become so caught up in studying and in reaching our end goal that we can forget to actually appreciate what we’re learning — or I do, anyway!
“Having a gap year has helped me realise just how much I love what I study, and helped me to be more grateful for it.”
Ms Hegarty said that although there have been some minor downfalls to taking a gap year, she doesn’t have a single regret.
“It was sad to not be seeing my university pals on a regular basis, and to have to do things like enrolling and talking to my lecturer online; but I wouldn’t call those regrets,” she said.
“I have my entire life stretching out ahead of me, and a gap year will not stop me from reaching my goals, it will help centre me as I go about achieving them.”
For high school graduates who can’t quite make their mind up yet about whether to take a gap year, deciding later and taking one in the middle of their studies could be an option, and one that Ms Hegarty advocates for.
“It absolutely depends on you as a person, but I would definitely recommend taking a gap year!” she said.
“I think a gap year helps you to take a breath and reflect on how life is going for you, and helps to ground you in an everyday routine that doesn’t centre around studying.”