Does a gap year help prepare a student for university?

Students on gap year

If you have a teenager getting ready to graduate high school, then your family conversations are probably consumed with planning the next steps.

If your teen is contemplating taking a gap year before starting university, they’re likely to be fully informed of all the benefits to taking time off. For parents who are raising teenagers, understanding the pros and cons of a gap year is essential to helping a young person make the right decision for their situation.

Is a gap year worth it?

Ask any high school student about the pros and cons of a gap year and the first thing out of their mouth will be something along the lines of, ‘It gives you a break from the mental stress of high school’ or ‘It’s a chance to relax’. It’s an understandable reaction from a young person who has been focused on exams or is feeling let down by their ATAR results. Harvard first identified the gap year as a valuable antidote for future burnout.

Dig a little deeper and it’s obvious many students view the gap year as a chance to explore what they want to do with their life. If you’re parenting a child who is uncertain about career planning or what course of study to choose, a gap year can provide clarity and purpose and even lead to higher job satisfaction in the future.

While COVID-19 travel restrictions might impede travelling, having a year off still gives school leavers a chance to gain independence by:

  • moving away from home
  • getting a job and saving money
  • moving to a different city or region
  • volunteering for a cause or charity

According to the Gap Year Association, 90 per cent of students who take a gap year enrol in university within one year of completing it and tend to have improved academic outcomes such as better grades and leadership skills. 

While there is overwhelming evidence about long-lasting benefits of taking a gap year, it’s important to set realistic expectations for the experience. The natural separation that occurs between peer groups in high school and uni will be more pronounced as some students go directly to university. If your child is taking a gap year and plans to travel, they’ll need to fund their adventures and will likely finish with no savings. Since parenting experts agree on the value of learning how to manage money, this could also be considered a benefit. If your child doesn’t have a plan on what they want to achieve in a gap year, they may not realise the full benefit of a gap year due to poor planning.

Tips for parents and teens about gap years and applying to uni

Universities support the concept of a gap year and do not penalise students who have decided to take a planned break in their formal education. Murdoch has multiple admissions pathways for teens applying to uni who want to take a gap year. These include:

  • Accepting an offer and studying part-time
  • Accepting an offer and deferring study
  • Accepting an offer, deferring study, and changing their preference later if they’ve changed their mind.

You can help support and guide your teen as they plan their future by having a frank discussion with them about a gap year and what options are available for future students who attend Murdoch.

Consider the gap year as a prime opportunity to get your child mentally ready for university studies, give yourself time to familiarise yourself with uni lingo, and enjoy watching your child spread their wings as they transition into adulthood.

If you’re struggling with this reality, check out our handy guide on how to support your child without smothering them.

Posted on:

20 Nov 2020

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