For some people, they already know in high school what career they’d like to have someday, but if like me, you were or are a bit confused then this article is for you.

After school I’ll be the first to admit that I was so confused about my future and what I wanted to do; I mean I was 17, who could blame me right?

So in a bid to get my act together, I decided to take a gap year. During my gap year I not only decided to think about my career, but I also had a part-time job so I wasn’t stuck at home, bored out of my mind.

In the year after my gap year I made the decision to do a Bachelor of Arts and major in psychology. I really thought that I had figured my life out, however, during the course of the year I realised that psychology wasn’t something that I wanted to pursue. That’s how I got into journalism.

My colleagues Busi and Thandile also took a gap year but their experiences were a bit different to mine.

Thandile said, “I took two gap years; one was when I left high school and the other after my first year of varsity. I had a plan for my gap year after high school; it was to work and save enough money for registration so I could go to tertiary. My second gap year, which was out of varsity, was again because of finances. But this time around I didn’t have a concrete plan. I wanted to work but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back to the course I was doing. I went to the YearBeyond programme during my gap year and I really developed there. I developed as a person and a professional.”

Thandile’s experience highlights that sometimes even if you have a set plan, things may not work out that way especially in varsity and dealing with finances. Busi’s experience also differs from mine and Thandile’s.

Busi said, “After matric I had no idea what to do with myself. I had also just moved to Cape Town so I was adjusting to the environment as well. I had to stay at home to babysit my younger sibling because at the time there wasn’t money to take her to crèche. Doing that motivated me to go back to school because I was starting to feel demotivated by my life. I went to varsity the next year,”

Varsity may not be for everyone but many find their paths while in varsity and, like me, Busi also didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life until she got into varsity.

The benefits of a Gap Year

• For some, a gap year may be a time to truly figure out who you are, which in turns help you decide on what you want to do for the future.
• You can really get to know the adult world. This means that you may have to get a job, you may have to learn to budget. This could be a time where you go to tertiary institutions and be a big girl (or boy) and ask the necessary questions pertaining to your career field.
• If you get a job, you can potentially save for your studies in the year to come.
• You can volunteer, specifically for the career you’d like to go into. But you could also volunteer for something you’re passionate about as it is not only rewarding for you, but would look great on your CV.
• Joining programmes that teach you important skills. Programmes such as: RLabs, the YES programme and the PAY programme (Western Cape). These are free courses that may not exactly be want you want to do, but it’s great for your CV too and you gain so much experience and meet new people.

The “dangers” of a Gap Year

There are a few pitfalls to be aware of when thinking about taking a gap year.

• There may be a chance that you’d never want to go back to studying. This is super dangerous in some ways because once you get the taste of money and the feeling of buying your own things, you may think that studying may not be worth it. However, you always have to be aware that the money you earn at that call centre job or the retail store will never equate to what you can earn in the long run in a more stable job. Getting caught up in the hustle and bustle is a real thing, so be wary.
• You have to be sure to be disciplined and be sure to make a plan with your life.
• You may feel more stuck than ever and not know what to do so you just stay home and do nothing. Be careful of this as this may make you feel despondent and lead to giving up on your dreams.

Please note that we are not suggesting that going to study means your life will be better or that not studying would make it worse; no, no. We’re just sharing our own life experiences with you and suggesting that going to study may make your life easier, especially when finding a job. School-leaving or high school graduate job seekers far outweigh those of the graduates who seeks jobs.

We understand that many people also cannot afford to go study straight after high school and that is so okay. We all have different paths and have different time periods. My mom only went to study in her late 30’s and my family is so proud of that achievement; so don’t think it’s ever too late to study! But it’s important to remember to do something during your gap year.

I honestly think that taking a gap year was the right choice for me. I experienced more and got to know myself. Working a part-time job really gave me some perspective, while earning a little on the side.


Read our previous blog on anxiously waiting for your Matric results here

Tell us: What are you planning to do after matric?