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 itNewsflash: 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 freeThe 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 interestingYou’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-stalkingJust 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 timeOne 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 destinationsTravelling 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 moneyAs 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 skillsIf 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!Want more content like this? Register for free site membership to get regular updates and your own personal content feed.