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Career | Michal Slowak | 18-05-2023


What Is A Gap Year And Why Is It Worth It? An in-depth Guide To Why It May Boost Your Education or Career.

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In this article, we’ll cover the basics of a gap year and why it might not only boost your chances of you getting into the university of your dreams but also improve you as a person.

I am Michał Słowak. I have myself took a gap year in Shanghai, China before starting an undergraduate in the UK at the University of Glasgow and then doing my master’s at the University of Cambridge.

A gap year has allowed me to get into some of the world’s most prestigious universities in the world.

Based on this experience, I’ll talk about why you should consider doing one depending on your circumstances.

So, without further ado, let’s get right into it.

What is a Gap Year?

The most basic definition of a gap year is a year-long break taken by students during their education (or between the stages of their education) during which students engage in various activities like travel, work or deepening personal or professional experience.

The most basic definition of a gap year is a year-long break taken by students during their education (or between the stages of their education) during which students engage in various activities like travel, work or deepening personal or professional experience.

Gap years are commonly taken between the end of high school and the beginning of university. It often lasts a year. Although, it is not uncommon for students to take them during their university journey e.g., the transition between their undergraduate and master’s degrees.

It is hard to clearly define what people do during the gap years, as they usually do not follow a specific format.

Many students take gap years to travel and visit faraway countries, learn languages, meet new people, and get to know different cultures.

Loads of students take them to work and earn money, do internships, or improve their professional qualifications by e.g., doing extra courses.

Others use gap years to rest, recharge batteries before the further stages of their education and take a break to simply enjoy their time.

Some take a gap year to do all the above reasons. Thus, each gap year is unique, and each has its own story.

My Gap Year in China: a Cambridge University Graduate’s Story

I have done a gap year, graduated from excellent universities (the University of Glasgow and the University of Cambridge), and understand the arguments for and against doing a gap year.

From this experience, a well-planned and smart gap year will push you to new heights and it can be absolutely worth it!

Let’s emphasise here again: well-planned and smart are the keywords here. This is the most important aspect and the core argument for why taking a gap year will be worth it.

So, taking a year out to stay at home and play computer games or mindlessly party in your local pub is not worth it.

That is a waste of time, and if that’s your idea for the gap year — it’s better for you to go straight to university.

The only gap years that are worthwhile are those during which you will grow, travel, experience something new, learn or simply do something useful, productive, or worth your time.

Those gap years are completely worth it. I believe my gap year was such and hence I will briefly tell you about it!

I have done my gap year in Shanghai, China. After finishing my IB diploma in Kraków, together with my close friend Matt who is now a co-founder of Edunade and a graduate of the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. We decided to stay out of university for a year and go to China to learn, travel, work, and save up money for our future education.

One might ask why China?

There is a personal story here. My older brother moved to China in 2009. When he knew we were considering a gap year, he recommended us China and offered us help while there.

I initially went to China for a month and a half during the summer, and after that month I completely fell in love with it, and together with Matt, we decided to stay the whole year.

My gap year in China was one of the best experiences of my life.

I learned the basics of the Chinese language, attended a Mandarin language university course, met hundreds of cool and interesting people from all over the world, and travelled all over the country.

I also worked as an English teacher and professional model, both of which allowed me to save up a decent sum of money for my university journey.

My time in China was very productive, moreover, I think I have never learned more than I have learned during my year in Shanghai.

I think I can speak for both me and Matt, when I say, that we went to China as boys after high school and came back as men who know how to survive and make their own living.

The number of challenges we had to face, the number of problems we had to solve, and the daily struggles we had in a completely different country contributed to both me and Matt growing up as human beings.

Until today I will remember my first day at my student accommodation when after China, I arrived at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Some students did not know how to cook or how to do their own laundry. This was after a year of surviving in China. When I saw the gap between us and how well I can manage in comparison to how an average student manages, it only ensured me that the gap year was a good decision.

My gap year was awesome, and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

If you plan yours well and have a good idea, then you should go for it!

When is a better time to do it than in your late 10s or early to mid-20s? When you have no kids, no wife/husband, and no responsibilities, you should take advantage of it, and as Nike’s saying in their slogan, ‘Just Do It’.

Still unconvinced?

Then, do an overview of the pros and cons of a gap year and go through each one in detail.

Is Gap Year Worth It?

This is one of the main questions that students ask themselves before committing or not committing to taking a gap year.

Some claim it is the best thing to do and one of the best times of their life, while others believe it’s an unnecessary break that delays their graduation and a waste of their time.

Let’s cover both sides of the argument.

Arguments For Taking a Gap Year

Arguments Against Taking a Gap Year

Debunking Arguments Against Taking a Gap Year

I will now cover each argument made against doing a gap year as covered in the previous section.

Argument 1: A Gap Year Will Delay Your Graduation.

Yes, it will technically delay your graduation if you want to get a university degree and start your career related to your degree.

However, achieving a goal in your life has multiple paths.

Many people think that the only path to your dream career or goal is to go to do an undergraduate degree on a specific topic related to the career.

A gap year will allow you to reflect on what you really want to achieve in life and think of alternate ways to achieve your goal.

This goal might not require you to get a bachelor’s and master’s degree and therefore, not delay but shorten your graduation.

Even after critically thinking about it and concluding that you need to pursue a degree, you have to ask the question: does this matter?

Taking one year extra will not matter in the course of your entire life—an employer will not look harshly at you if you started a full-time job at 22 or 23.

This argument is purely based on the logic that you must compete with everyone else and do everything as fast as possible.

Focus on yourself and not on others. You need to be comfortable working at your own pace.

Argument 2: A Gap Year Might Make You Fall Behind Your Peers.

This will only be true if you don’t do a well-planned and smart gap year.

For example, if you just sit at home, watch TV, or play video games. In that case, you will fall behind your peers who entered university without a gap year.

However, if you do a smart and well-planned gap year e.g., volunteering for the UN in Africa, working in Thailand while studying the local language, or getting a part-time gig in Australia, then not only will you be as competitive as your peers, but even surpass them by a wide margin.

When you do a gap year you usually have experiences that your peers don’t have, so how can you fall behind them?

During gap years you work in a one-of-a-kind place—whilst your peers don’t. You travel extensively—whilst your peers don’t. You meet new people from new cultures—whilst your peers don’t.

If you do a good gap year, you certainly do not fall behind!

Argument 3: Gap Years Can Be Expensive

Again, this will not be a problem provided that you do a well-planned, smart gap year.

A gap year does not have to involve anything fancy: it could be as simple as volunteering for a local organisation.

If planned well, a gap year could not only be affordable but also make you enough money to fund several years of your university education without finding a part-time job during your university life.

If done even better, a gap year could put you ahead of your peers and help you stand out with your achievements. This could lead you to a scholarship and therefore save you a lot of money.

Argument 4: Gap Years Make The Transition To University Difficult.

This purely comes down to personal choice.

Contrary to what society and your parents tell you, having a university degree is not a necessity to start your dream career nor the only path to your goal or your happiness.

A gap year can help you reflect on what your true goals are in your life and if this requires you to have a university degree.

Many people realise too late that they ended up choosing a career that didn’t require a degree and is several thousand in debt.

As for the transition to university, a gap year does the complete opposite: it can help you transition to university.

A gap year can help you reflect if the subject you want to pursue is really what you want to study. Furthermore, depending on what you do, you can develop vital skills such as self-discipline and time management to better keep up with your university work.

Argument 5: If Not Planned Properly, Gap Years Can Be a Waste Of Time.

Yes, I fully agree.

Not all gap years are created equally and so it would be wise to think about why you want to take a gap year and what you hope to achieve from it.

Planning a practical and productive gap year is key here.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a gap year can be a very effective choice that will propel you to new heights and be ahead of your peers.

However, this is only if it is planned well and done smartly.

If you do not have an idea for a gap year and simply want to stay home or party, probably it is not for you!

Not sure if a gap year is for you?

Not sure if you have a well-planned gap year?

Not sure how to execute a good gap year?

Then contact us! We, at Edunade, provide career consulting for prospective university students, including consulting for a gap year.

We have advised many prospective students who took a gap year and ended up in top universities around the world, such as MIT, Stanford, and Oxford.

If you are interested in any advice, contact us at contact@edunade.com.