As this year’s HSC draws to a close, 25% of the graduating students will go on gap years. According to new studies, students who have a gap year will do better than their counterparts who came straight from high school.
Against the conventional theories of students losing the momentum of learning, Professor Andrew Martin from the University of Sydney believes that gap years are “part of the momentum”. He states that this gap between high school and university allows for clarity in “students’ plans for what they study and where” as well as giving them an ‘edge’ over other students who may be lacking in the autonomous skills needed to meet the broader demands of tertiary education.
Professor Martin is co-author of a paper in the Journal of Higher Education which follows the progress of 904 undergraduate students at the University of Sydney. He explores how students meet the demands of university life. Through this, he has concluded that those who embarked on gap years, were more successful as their experiences enabled them to cope with the high expectations,”develop and maintain self-direction and independent thinking skills” Professor Martin explained.
“I want to experience the world before I get too old” says 17-year-old student Ellie who has finished her HSC studies and will depart for London mid-November for six months travelling around Europe. Her sister Claire set out for a gap year in 2010 but instead stayed for 2 years, “I just loved being immersed in a different culture and that it only took a train trip to be in an entirely different country”. Claire originally wanted to study exercise science but quickly changed after returning to Australia, “I wanted to do a job that would take me all over the world and actually be paid for it!”
Whilst gap years are not for everyone as they can be financially tolling, they are advised by many – such as Claire – who have embarked on one as they allow for students to “be naive, adventurous but independent without the pressures of studying or other grown-up responsibilities.”