The value of a gap year

July 18, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

Click here for 2021 shadowing opportunities

Tell anyone you are planning on taking a gap year and you are sure to get mixed reactions. On the one hand will be those who are totally on board with the idea and who will encourage you to go ahead with your plans and on the other hand are those who will be totally against the idea and will advise you to reconsider. This can leave you thinking, should you or should you not take a gap year?

First, what would anyone have against taking a gap year? The biggest opposition to taking a gap year is the fear that after taking a year off, chances are you may never want to return to school. However, is that reason enough to abandon the idea? For many students, the decision hinges on weighing the pros and cons and determining what they stand to benefit from taking a gap year.

Gap Medics students spending time with Jerry, our Programme Manager! Today, with an increasing number of students having taken a gap year, the value of taking one has become clearer than ever before, especially to educators. Several universities in the UK are supportive of students who have gap year plans and they regularly grant ‘deferred admission’, meaning that once students are accepted, they are allowed to take a year off before attending.

How exactly does a gap year help? Gap years are increasingly being seen as an opportunity to develop skills and to take on personal responsibility as an adult. The independence and exposure helps boost students’ self-belief and gives them the confidence to cope in different situations. Most importantly, it gives students the opportunity for self-exploration, which can be invaluable for students to be able to make better decisions about their future and which career path they should choose to pursue.  

Today, British students who opt to take a gap year engage in diverse activities from building houses in India and volunteering in orphanages in Africa to trekking in Nepal and scuba diving in Honduras. All of these activities put together helps build character and promotes self-dependency. Above all, this acts as a Do-It-Yourself education for students.

Following the straight and narrow route to college can sometimes present different types of challenges particularly if you are not sure about what course to take. The worst thing you can do is to start a course and do badly. Students who make a poor first attempt at university may not find it so easy to be readmitted. Also, with the high fees of a university education, you cannot afford to enrol in a course that you are not sure you want to do in the first place. Taking a gap year and indulging in various activities can help you get a better idea of where your interests and strengths lie and help you make a more informed decision about your future plans.

For those who are faced with any opposition to their gap year plans, a compelling argument that can be made is when it is time to submit your resume for a job, it is this overseas experience that can give you the competitive edge over hundreds of similarly qualified candidates.