Should you take a gap year before or after you study?

We tend to think of a gap year as something to do after high school but before embarking on a tertiary education. However, there is no rule that says you can’t take a gap year after you study. In fact, there are many reasons to do just that.

If you are considering a gap year, which would be better for you? As always, there are a variety of factors to consider.

Do you need qualifications for your gap year?

One of the questions to ask yourself is whether having a qualification would impact your gap year experience or open up more opportunities for you. For instance, if you wanted to combine travel with money-making, then teaching English as a second language overseas could be perfect. There are many countries, especially in South East Asia, who are looking for someone just like you! Provided you already have a degree that is. If this is what you want to do then you should take your gap year after you study.

For most ESL (English second language) destinations, all you need is a tertiary degree and an ESL qualification. One of the exceptions is if you want to teach in Dubai though, which requires that you specifically studied to be a teacher and are already a licensed teacher with experience in education jobs.

Do you need to save for your gap year?

If you want to spend a year travelling then one of your primary considerations is of course going to be how you would fund that dream. If you plan to combine work and travel, like you would if you spent your year working at a ski resort, then you could probably take your gap year either before or after you study, provided you have enough money to get the ball rolling (i.e. flight tickets and such). If you just want to spend your year travelling, then you will need to save first (unless you’re lucky enough to have wealthy and generous parents). In that case you will probably have to save for a while first, in which case it might be easier to study first as that will give you the time you need to organise your finances.

Do you know what you want to study?

One of the reasons people take a gap year straight after school is because they aren’t entirely sure yet what it is they want to do with the rest of their lives. If that is you, then it might be a good idea to take your gap year before you study. This will give you time to figure things out a bit more before you commit yourself to the time and cost of a tertiary qualification.

Ultimately, the decision of when to take a gap year also just depends on how you feel about the whole thing. If you are desperate to take a gap year now and have the means to make it happen, then that might mean you should get that out of the way. If you feel like you can wait and are sure about what you want to study, then you can always take a gap year later. The important thing is that you balance your wanderlust with just a bit of planning for the future as well. There’s no reason you can only have the one or the other