Five Terrible Reasons to Take a Gap Year (and Five Pretty Good Ones) | Top Universities

Five Terrible Reasons to Take a Gap Year (and Five Pretty Good Ones)

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated September 30, 2016 Updated September 30, 2016

There are lots of great reasons to take a gap year before starting university. There are also plenty of terrible ones. I’ll start with the latter…

1. Everyone else is doing it

Newsflash: what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily best for another. Make sure you’re making a decision based on your own wants, ambitions and personal readiness.

2. It’s your only chance to be free

The year before you start university is a good time to take a year out – but definitely not the only time this will be possible. Again, make sure the timing’s right for you.

3. To get a cool piercing from somewhere interesting

You’re probably imagining this: “Hey, cool piercing.” “Thanks, I got it when I was out in [insert name of country].” Which is indeed an excellent conversation. But you could get roughly the same effect from a week-long vacation.

4. To fulfil your passion for birdwatching/trainspotting/celebrity-stalking

Just kidding. If that’s what you really want to do, go for it. (Excluding actual stalking, obviously.)

5. You see this guy as a role model (No explanation should be necessary…)


And now: five pretty good reasons to take a gap year…

1. Thinking time

One benefit of taking a year out is the extra time you have to consider all your options. This can help you to discover the subject you’re really most passionate about, and the types of course, institution and location that will suit you best.

2. Explore study destinations

Travelling is one of the most popular ways to spend a gap year, and – linked to the above point – this can be a great opportunity to hone your ideas about where you’d like to spend the next three or more years studying.

3. Earn some money

As you’ve probably noticed, going to university tends to be pretty expensive. If you can spend at least part of your gap year working, and manage to save up some money, you’ll have a bit of a head start/safety buffer.

4. Work on your language skills

If you’re planning on studying abroad, you may need to learn a new language. Now’s your chance to get up to speed.

5. Visit the ‘university of life’

Whatever you do with your gap year, simply taking time out from academia can be beneficial. The gains are difficult to pin down, but may include getting a clearer idea of what’s most important to you, becoming more independent and self-confident, and also just feeling refreshed and truly ready to get stuck in to that degree!

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This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in September 2016

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The former editor of, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'


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