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Gap year blues?

10 Apr 2017

After 13 years of schooling, many Year 12 students – and their parents – think taking a gap year to work, travel and play will be the perfect way to recharge before diving in to a degree.

But how do you make sure the decision to take a gap year pays off? After the excitement of the summer holidays, some young people find it tough to get their gap year off the ground – especially if their friends have all gone off to university. Unless they set some clear goals, it can be easy for your child to spend 12 months surfing, watching Youtube or working shifts at a job they hate, without achieving any of their big plans for the year.

If your child is considering a gap year, encourage them to think about why. Do they want to work and save money? If they’re confident of securing a job that’s relevant to their future career plans, great. But if they're nervous about finding rewarding work, or won't be guaranteed as many shifts as they would like, getting their degree underway could be the better career choice. Starting university doesn't mean they can't work and save: many USC students work part time, and balancing uni and work can be a great way to build discipline and time management.

If your child is taking a gap year to travel, consider whether they’re likely to meet their saving or planning goals. If not, they could think about an overseas exchange program like USC’s Study Overseas program. Through Study Overseas, they can spend a semester or two at one of more than 70 partner institutions worldwide, and earn credit toward their degree at the same time. This is a great way to see the world without having to delay uni. (Plus, your child may be eligible for a travel scholarship).

If your child wants to take a gap year to explore career options, remember this won’t happen by itself. Unless they are actively seeking out new information and experiences, they are likely to finish the year as unsure as when they started. Encourage your child to start thinking about their career options early, and to remember there's no such thing as choosing the 'wrong' program. If they enrol in a degree and find it's not for them, they'll have more insight into their own interests and goals – and they can always apply for a program change into a degree that's better suited.

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