The benefits of a gap year for your child

Deferring is becoming an increasingly popular option for students. This is because of the range of benefits a gap year can provide a well-earned break, a chance for students to set themselves up financially and an opportunity to gain some real-world experience before launching in to more years of study. When exams finally wrap up it will be a great time to discuss your child's plans for next year. Here are some of the reasons why your child might consider taking a gap year:

  • They can take a break: Many students feel that after so many years of schooling they need a breather before they launch into their tertiary studies. But a gap year provides more than a chance to unwind and get rid of any post-exam stress. Many choose to work and travel in their year away from study to gain some life experience, which may in fact give them an advantage over students who commence their university studies straight away. Gap year companies (such as Lattitude Global Volunteering, Real Gap Year Experience) cater for students wanting to gain a mind-expanding experience before commencing their studies, providing them with tailored programs to work, travel and volunteer overseas.
  • They can take advantage of university gap year programs: A number of institutions recognise the value of a gap year. Deakin University's Gap Year Program allows students to keep in contact through social networking sites, use university resources and begin studying subjects on or off campus to get a head start on their degree.
  • They can experience the world of work: Many students choose to take a year off to work and build up a financial buffer for the years ahead. Students who choose to work in an area that relates to their course will be able to add real value to their résumé and will gain employment experience that may give them the edge over other students when they hit the jobs market after graduation.
  • They can qualify for Youth Allowance: Students from regional or remote areas who earn a designated amount of money during a gap year are able to qualify as independent and receive Youth Allowance during their studies. Deferring and working is the only way that many students can qualify for Youth Allowance to support them through their years of study. See the Centrelink website for more information on how your child can qualify as independent.

The main considerations:

  • Will a gap year affect scholarships and bursaries? Many scholarships come with a ˜no deferral' condition, so be sure that your child checks the conditions attached to their scholarship before deferring.
  • How long can the course be deferred for? Some universities will allow students to begin their studies mid-year, while others only allow for the usual deferral of one year. Some, on the other hand, are very lenient and allow students to defer for two years. This all depends on the institution and the course.
  • Have they considered other options? If travel is your child's main objective then they might like to consider completing an exchange program during their degree or deferring their studies after completing their first year. This way, students may be able to receive financial support from their institution to spend on their travels. The University of Tasmania, for example, allows students who complete their first year of full-time studies with a credit average to apply for a $3500 travel scholarship. If gaining some industry experience is the main aim then your child might like to consider completing a with an inbuilt internship program, such as a co-op degree.
  • Be prepared for a change of heart: A gap year gives students a lot of time to rethink their career pathway and rearrange their priorities. Some students, especially those who begin working in their gap year, may decide during the course of the year that they don't need to complete a degree to achieve the career they want. Some students simply become disengaged with the idea of studying after a year off. Be prepared for this and discuss the possibility of this occurring with your child.
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