How to Plan for a Successful Gap Year


Matric exams are over, you've survived the stress and angst of parenting an almost fully-grown teenager and not long now, they'll be leaving the roost to pursue a life of their own. You've decided mutually that taking a year off to take a break from studying and discovering what is out there is a good idea. Where do you start?  

First of all, have your child apply to a tertiary institution before venturing off for a gap year! This will give you a designated time for the gap year to happen, without any hurry backs to do interviews, etc. Also, tertiary institutions prefer to have students apply in their final year of high school. You can let them know for which year they are applying for (i.e. after the gap year). Some might require reapplication but the details will already be in the system which makes for a smoother registering process. Always make sure of the rules and regulations of your child’s chosen place of study.

Part of the reason that some may choose a gap year may be because their grades were not sufficient to enter their preferred faculty. A gap year which includes work experience and allows for study time would be best, as the child can re-write the exams at the end of the gap with an aim of achieving a better end result. Universities believe that students who have had a gap year tend to be more mature and responsible and have a good work ethic towards their studies. They are also capable of looking after themselves far better than others.

Researching with your child on the interests and available options on what to do is of utmost importance. It will tell you in what direction your child is leaning towards and also allow you to steer them into a reasonable option. There are so many options! Here are just a few examples of things one can do in a gap year:

  • Work with children, the elderly and the sick through voluntary programmes
  • Farm – fruit-picking, wine-making assistant, etc
  • Crew on a yacht
  • Au pair locally or abroad
  • Work on a Kibbutz in Israel
  • Teach English as a foreign language abroad
  • Shadow a worker in the chosen profession
  • Take an art foundation course
  • Work and earn cash at a restaurant, guest house, etc
  • Start a small business
  • Learn a new language

Anything that appeals to your child, as long as it’s constructive and would look good on a CV will be beneficial to them. You know them best: listen to what they are telling you. If it sounds like they just want to do anything to delay studying further, then be prepared for an extended gap year. Don't force your child to study if  they don't want to. They can always apply later in life when they are ready and are sure of exactly what it is they want to do. A gap year should never be an excuse, but let's face it, it's about the only chance they'll have to take a break!

Taking a gap year is not  for every child. If they are unsure whether to study or take a gap year, it is always better to weigh up the pros and cons together, be honest with them about the realities of a life outside school and in the end, let them make the best decision for themselves. Whatever happens, they will certainly be different, more mature, young adults to be proud of on the other side!

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