Menu Close

“Gap years … for, or against? and … if “for!” suggestions please!”


Q: ” Dear Villagers, please can you share your thoughts, experiences, recommendations, resources and tips on taking a gap year between matric and further study. Input from parents whose children have done/are currently doing this will be particularly appreciated.”


A: Firstly .. a flurry of … ” Er, nos…”

” I’ve never thought a gap year was a good thing. Seems fashionable these days but in so many cases simply delays progress in life…just my opinion.”

” Worst decision. Was a lot of fun at the time…. but has delayed my life tremendously. If I could turn back time I would have studied after school.”

” With the job market as it is, and new matriculants applying for varsity or tertiary education each year…best to get on with studies…especially when you’re already in study mode. If you don’t know what you want to do now, apply your mind assertively to the task. A year really isn’t going to get you closer to decisions.”

” My son is 2nd year Varsity and told me he was very grateful of me putting my foot down and not allowing him to have a gap year. His reason was that he said he was in the swing of studying after Matric exams and the break between exams the 1st year of 3 months was long enough and difficult enough getting back into as that was difficult enough. Varsity takes no prisoners.”

But, also …

” My elder son had no idea what he wanted to do after school so he took a gap year. We couldn’t afford to pay for him to start studying something then change his mind. Our condition was that he get a job to cover his pocket money. We agreed to still feed and clothe him as well as pay his medical. He worked as a waiter/barman from the November of his Mstric year. In September he had decided what to study the following year. He learnt so much in that year. He learnt to manage money and hos time as well as to be responsible for getting to work on time. He completed his studies, worked for 2 years and is now travelling. It was the best thing for him. My younger son is doing exactly the same thing this year. ”

” I think it’s a fantastic idea. Gives your child a chance to get to know themselves better and what direction they would really want to take when going back to study.”

” I was never pro a gap year, however when my son failed 1st year varsity – be both realised that he wasn’t ready for university when he left school. When asking him if he though a gap year would have been a better option… His response was, “no because then I wouldn’t have learned the lessons that I needed to”

” Goodness me. It is one year. This is not a race to see who is first. And it is never a year ‘off’… or ‘wasted’. It is a year learning about other important things. My daughter spent a year working in an office doing all sorts of useful things, she earned enough to finance a trip to the U.K. at the end of it. She returned and started her Silwood course after that.”

” My son took a gap year last year because the didn’t know what to study. We, too, could not afford for him to waste a year of education. I know too many youngsters who go study,only to change courses after the first year. He found online work and kept himself busy. It wasn’t a “YouTube” year. He also spent time exploring different options. This year he has started at Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography, completely different to the Computer Studies or Engineering he was originally going to do. Fortunately after some work experience in matric, he realised that it wasn’t the field he wanted to be in at all, even though he has the subjects and marks for them. For him, a gap year was the best decision.”

” In my opinion, a gap year is fine if you do something constructive… ie work. However I don’t see it as a necessity. My children didn’t have one.”

” My daughter had no idea what she wanted to study this year. Currently on a gap year, working at a school in Australia thro … earning her own money, has made lovely new friends (doing the same, from the UK), traveling etc. it’s been a great experience so far and she now keen to study next year.”

” I was never keen on a gap year, but my eldest took a gap year 2 years ago and it was such an amazing experience.
He wanted to do it, even though he knew what he wanted to study and had got into varsity. He deferred his acceptance and went to the U.K.
He worked as a stooge in a prep school. ( A combination of Teachers assistant in the classroom and boarding house master after-hours. Common position in the U.K. Australia and New Zealand, at boarding schools and even those without boarding schools (cheap labour )The young adults who act as stooges are pretty much general dogsbodies, earning a modest stipend, but with free board and lodging. So quite a nice job for a new matriculant as accommodation and catering taken care of.
And they get the looong August 10-week holiday off to travel!)  Worked really hard and learnt so many life lessons! He’s settled easily into varsity life and is working very hard at his studies and working to earn money to sustain himself.
Second son went straight to varsity.”

” My daughter did a gap year last year. Best decision for her – she was exhausted after Matric and although she knew what she wanted to do she needed a break. She worked and then did a three month trip through Europe. Although independent she really grew up and learnt so much about herself. This year she started at varsity and is flying.
My son went straight to varsity from school and hated what he had decided to do. Took a gap year in second year and then went back to a new course a year later. For both of mine it was a good move.
I would highly recommend.”

” My daughter is currently taking a gap year. She is working in the Netherlands as an Au pair. I am so proud of her much more responsible and looking at study options now.”

” All 3 of my sons have taken a gap year after matric.. One is currently away.. 2 came back to study after the year. We insisted they finance the year.. We paid for the ticket but they have covered living costs and travel while away. All have grown up, matured and come back ready to study. All have learnt to travel alone, find friends and create a life on a different continent and all have benefitted hugely. Was probably the best thing we have ever given our boys.”

” My daughter took a year before deciding what to study. She did house sitting and tutoring in that year and has now decided what she wants to do as far as a career path goes. I don’t believe in forcing a child to study when they have no idea what they want to do. And why is it called a “gap year” anyway? Not everyone is cut out to study further. It sounds like a walk of shame instead of a year to find yourself.”

” Personally, I feel that so many of our matric’s leave school completely exhausted and depleted both physically and mentally. Added to this, many suffer with anxiety due to the competitive schooling system they find themselves in. For these reasons, we decided as a family, that our daughter would have a gap year. She has just had the most incredible three months abroad in the US and two week in Europe. She is now going to focus on getting her drivers license , deciding exactly where she’d like to study next year, start her 200hr yoga teacher training with Jim Harrington, catch up with friends… and most importantly… allow her body, mind and soul to regroup, so that she can begin her studies filled with clarity and hopefully a sense of peace and calm. As parents, we can only really follow our gut for our own children… and hope we’re getting it right.”

” My step son took a gap year as he had no idea what he wanted to study. He took bar jobs to fund a trip to America where he worked on one of the camps. On his return he got a job at a more upmarket establishment until he started at varsity this year. Over the gap year he completely changed his mind on what he wanted to study as he was exposed to so much more and met so many other students. He is now first year at UCT and is loving his course and feels it is perfect for him. He would never have done this degree had he gone straight to varsity. He also has a pretty impressive CV already with work experience.”

I wasted 3 years of tuition because my parents insisted I study a course I wasn’t interested in…took a gap year four years after school and found my niche. 30 years later I’m still in the same industry and own my business. My gap “years” were invaluable with respect to growing up and having to deal with my own finances at that age. Plenty of hiccups, but wouldn’t change a thing. My daughter has a very clear idea of what she wants to do after school (she’s in grade 10), but if she says she’d prefer to take a year off and travel and discover, I’ll say GO FOR IT!!!!
I always remind myself that Signor Giorgio Armani became a designer at the age of 40…”

” My son was a typical lazy school boy and nearly a year younger than his friends in his matric year. Had no idea what he wanted to do. His matric marks were mediocre at best. We gave him a choice find a job or redo at least one subject and home school his disabled brother. He chose the latter and then went on to study teaching. He’s now third year and a very responsible student. A structured gap year did wonders for my son!”

” My son took a Gap year as he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. We funded the ticket over. He left the day after his last exam. We insisted he organize a job to go to. He worked on a ski resort in Canada, road tripped up to Alaska (8 in a van) and then road tripped with 2 friends from the ski resort from Vancouver to Las Vegas (West Coast of USA). He the worked at a summer camp in Alberta (river rafting , archery, hiking, horse riding… You name it). He definitely came back much more confident, engaging and knew what he wanted to study. He learnt to budget, put himself out there and make friends, engage in work situation, navigate transport around cities. Ultimately though, it depends on the kid. Travel as much as you can while you’re young (that’s my 2cents worth)”

” My daughter matriculated last year and was on a plane to America by 26/12. She’s aupairing for 12 months ( via Au Pair in America,) and traveling for 2 or 3 weeks in Jan before she starts varsity next year.
It hasn’t been easy but she’s enjoying it. She has learnt to be alone and lonely.. navigate difficult adult personalities. .. be an employee with responsibilities that don’t dissappear just because she’s tired… save.. budget. .. plan … book flights… hotel accommodation. .. make new friends…drive an automatic on the right side of the road. ..
No I don’t think she’ll get lazy. I think she’s growing a part of herself stiffled by our rigid (possibly very necessary) school system.”

I can highly recommend the Quest Kaba programme in the Eastern Cape – this holistic programme focuses on developing a ‘can do’ attitude, despite the physical and psychological challenges that will need to be faced there. Have a look at the end of their video clip for a full list of all the life skills and other skills that they will develop here: (also look at”

” I am a lecturer and many times I see young adults choose a study path but as time passes by become confused and question their choices. Sometimes a whole year passes by and they realize that this is not what they wanted to do. Dont rush your kids if they not sure of a career path. They can use the gap year to explore their interests and skills to lead them to what they really want to do.”

” My daughter is currently doing the Bridging Year program at Kingswood College in Grahamstown. She didn’t want to go straight to varsity. Instead she is playing sport, which she loves, improving two of her Matric subjects,coaching sport, and participating in their amazing life skills program. She is boarding there and absolutely loves all the new friends she’s made and the experiences she’s having. I think our kids are going to live longer and therefore work longer, so should take a little more time growing up.”

A kibbutz in Israel is amazing , they work get paid pocket money but meet people from all over the world .
My two sons went.” 

I was at a talk about subject choices for my Grade 9 son. More than 40% of 1st year students either drop out of studies or change courses. Most of them are due to starting to study something that they lost interest in. So either pay a year towards waisted 1st year, or send them on a gap year to let them explore who they really are, and try things they did not know existed. Stunning program here in RSA is” 






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Share This

Copy Link to Clipboard