Taking a gap year before tertiary study

A year off, or gap year, after secondary school is becoming more common in New Zealand. Find out what you can do during your gap year, and the advantages and disadvantages of taking time out.

What are the advantages of taking a gap year?

There are many reasons for taking a gap year. After 10 years in school you may want a break from study. Or maybe you want to save some money to help cover your tertiary fees and avoid a student loan.

There are several advantages to having a working year or a gap year. You can:

  • experience the world of work
  • become more mature, independent and experienced
  • clarify your study and career path, and make new or more informed decisions
  • meet and work with people from different cultures and professions
  • experience different types of workplaces
  • gain new skills.

After Year 13, William Arlidge spent five months doing a job he didn't enjoy. He says it pushed him to enrol at university, and work hard at his study.

"I saw the difference when I looked at my classmates in the first year. I got really good grades. I sat down and did all my homework while everyone else was slacking off."

William Arlidge

William Arlidge

University Student

What are the disadvantages of doing a gap year?

You may:

  • be a year behind your friends and former classmates who have gone on to tertiary study
  • find it hard to pick up certain subjects again, or get back into the study habit
  • be tempted by a good work offer when it may be in your best interests to study instead
  • not earn as much money as you hoped you might.

What sort of things can I do in my gap year?

A gap year, or year off from study, might be spent in your home town, perhaps working full time in a job that was previously a part-time job. Or it might involve going to live with friends or relatives in another town or city where there are more opportunities for full-time work. These jobs are often practical or labouring positions that may not relate to future study.

A gap year can also involve some component of working or travelling overseas. This could include:

  • working at summer camps in the USA such as Camp America
  • spending a year overseas as a high school exchange student
  • being involved in volunteer social, environmental or conservation projects
  • participating in sporting or other cultural exchanges
  • working overseas as an au pair or nanny
  • teaching English overseas.

Sam Langton had finished Year 13 but hadn't decided on a career.

"I needed a job, so I had a look around to see what was going. My mum told me that there were jobs going at the hospital for orderlies.

"It's good experience. You're interacting with a lot of people, so you find out more about how people are – instead of just stereotyping people. It's good for students who want to do a gap year."

Sam Langton

Sam Langton

Hospital Orderly

Updated 10 Nov 2016