A gap year is a deferred year of study, usually taken between second and third levels of education. However it can also be taken during a college course for reasons such as lack of funding, accommodation issues or other reasons. Sometimes a gap year taken during a college course allows a student to catch up on areas of the course they may be struggling with or to gather funding to enable them focus more completely on study for the remainder of the course without financial struggles.
A Gap year before embarking on third level can be that necessary bridge to enlightenment and maturity for young adults before hitting college life. It can also be used if CAO choices did not work out as planned and the student wishes to choose an alternative CAO course for the following year. For students who may have financial worries, a year out may be a good opportunity to set aside funds for education in the years ahead. Whatever the reason, good planning is a must and with the right plan in place, it could one day be the talking point to get you that much sought after position and sometimes it reveals to ‘gappers’ a career that is for them as opposed to their subsequent ill-thought out one. A gap year can be a positive addition to your C.V as it often demonstrates independence and diligence (if you fill the year well).
A gap year can include a multitude of activities and experiences. Generally gap years will take the form of either travel, volunteer work (charity work), paid work or supplementary study (for example a one year pre-nursing course might be advantageous if planning to go the nursing route). A gap year can give the opportunity to take time out to do something that might not normally be possible. Some students may be forced into looking at taking a gap year if the offers are not taking them in the direction they are looking for. This is preferable to taking a course that might not be suitable and lead to drop out. With high drop out rates on many courses in first year of college, it is preferable to take a year out before college and reapply for a course that will hold more interest for the student. If a student does drop out in first year, they will not qualify for any funding if applying again so it is important to bear this in mind.
Of course, being away from education can be frowned upon and there are those that might never go back to a formal education setting after taking a year out – but they would be in the minority.
Why take a Gap Year?
- Working in Ireland or abroad can be a good opportunity to raise cash to be more financially secure when entering college as the registration fees, book costs, living expenses are rising each year (and college grants do not cover everything).
- A chance to help those less fortunate or worthy causes. Whether helping children, animals or rainforests, just one individual can make a big difference.
- A chance to travel and experience new cultures. Living and working alongside local people will really let you into the heart and soul of any country. This might be a good time to try teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).
- A gap year can promote self-confidence and self-esteem if used wisely.
- A chance to reassess CAO options and reappply for courses more suiting to interests and points achieved, It might also be wise to look into UCAS options for the year ahead if taking the year out for reapplication reasons.
With agencies available to plan your gap year, many parents/guardians see both the safety surrounding them and the benefit of the year out in the long term. If you do source an agency to help you plan your gap year; ensure that the work they do is genuinely helpful, or is it just a profit-making venture? The huge growth in the gap-year market has given rise to some spurious schemes that can do more harm than good, according to Voluntary Service Overseas, an international-development charity. VSO has warned that badly planned, so-called ‘voluntourism’ schemes could have a negative impact on young people and the communities they worked with. One reputable agency is European Voluntary Service (EVS), funded by the European Commission, offers young people the opportunity to do voluntary work in other European countries. Unlike many other gap-year schemes, the scheme does not require volunteers to pay a fee.
There is always the option to spend your gap year in Ireland and to work here. Some students take on paid jobs in order to get work experience and to make themselves financially secure before going into college. As they say on the underground in London when disembarking: “Mind the gap”. Three words of caution that are worth taking on board if taking a year out.
Author: Catriona Lowry