Taking a break after completing secondary school can give young people the breath of fresh air many desperately need. Many students are burnt out after the hard work they have put in leading up to those final school exams. Many are also unsure about the future and a GAP break may give them the time they need to really think before making important decisions about future courses and careers.
Many parents worry about teenagers taking a GAP year before going on to tertiary study. Typical concerns are…
- Will she ever go back to study?
- Will he decide that he wants to keep working in a fast food outlet?
- Is a GAP year a waste of precious time?
- What if she decides that she is happy without the pressures of study!
It’s reassuring to know that most young people who take a year off after completing secondary school do go back to take up the tertiary course they deferred in order to take a GAP break. Most young people know that their earning capacity will greatly increase if they complete formal tertiary studies. Most also know that many careers are not an option at all unless further study is completed. A GAP break generally makes young people more motivated, more ambitious and more enthusiastic about life. It isn’t a future-destroying idea!
However, staying at home doing nothing for a GAP break should never be an option unless a young person has been very ill and needs time to recover. For healthy young people, having nothing to do isn’t the holiday they might imagine. When most of their friends are busy working or studying, life can quickly become boring and even mental health can be compromised. Young people need to be connected to their families, friends and the community. They need to be connected to life! Even if a family member is at home with them, this isn’t enough. So, if your son or daughter is considering a GAP break, it must be well planned.
Is a GAP year a waste of precious time?
No. If it is well planned, it can be fantastic. Young people can work part time and taste being more financially independent. They may work for a period of time and then travel with a friend or group of friends. This is an opportunity to see another part of Australia or the world and become more independent and worldlier.
In addition to work and travel, young people should also consider completing some voluntary work which teaches them so many priceless skills. They learn to relate to and communicate with a wide range of people, they develop greater empathy for others as well as other important interpersonal skills. A GAP break also gives young people a chance to pursue current interests and try new hobbies.
Here are some more important facts and advice…
Half a year may be enough
Many tertiary institutions now allow students to begin studies mid-year rather than taking a whole year off. Some students only need half a year GAP break before they are keen to start their tertiary studies.
Timing is flexible
Students can take a GAP break (a semester or a whole year) during their tertiary studies rather than immediately after completing their final year at school. Some students defer after the first semester of tertiary studies while other defer at the end of first or second year. This has all of the many benefits students gain when taking a year off straight after secondary school.
A Gap break provides thinking time
Students who are uncertain about which tertiary course to choose can have more time to think about possible courses during a GAP break. While at school, they should still choose and apply for a range of courses and defer the course offered. This gives them something to go back to. But during their GAP break, some students discover a new course they want to pursue. Sometimes they can even start this new course mid-year.
Formal GAP programs are great options
Some formal GAP programs do have a cost but they are safe and provide unique life experiences for young people. They certainly reduce the worry factor for parents. Young people can generally take up these options straight after completing secondary school as well as during their tertiary studies. See articles on: Antipodeans Abroad, Camp America, Camp Counsellors USA, Cultural Care Au Pair and Projects Abroad.
If well-planned, a GAP break can be an enriching and invigorating experience for young people. They can gain invaluable new perspectives on life as well as having greater self-understanding and new insights into pathways and careers they may want to pursue.