What is a gap year?

Taking a gap year means taking a year off between finishing high school and starting further study or training. If you are not sure what you want to do after finishing Year 12, a gap year can give you time to consider your options.

You can take a gap year whether or not you have been accepted into a university or TAFE course. If you have been accepted into a course, though, part of taking a gap year will involve deferring your studies.

Why should I take a gap year?

Here are some reasons you might choose to take a gap year:

  • You did not get into the course you wanted and you want to reapply for a different course at the end of the year.
  • You want to take a break from studying.
  • You want to gain skills and experience to help you get into a course.
  • You want to make some money before going to university or TAFE.

What can I do during a gap year?

You can do many things during a gap year. Whether you want to improve your job prospects or get some experience related to what you will be studying, or even if you just want a break, here are some ideas to consider.


This could be your chance to take that overseas trip you have always dreamed of. Maybe you want to stay local and do some travel around your country.

To get the most out of your travel, you could spend some time working overseas as well as doing the tourist thing. On the other hand, maybe you would like to try student exchange and experience life with a host family.

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There are many opportunities out there.


Working during your gap year can give you valuable skills and experience. It can also help you save money to pay for the costs of studying. You might even find a job that you like so much, you decide not to go back to studying.

Here are some work-related suggestions for your gap year:

  • Organize some work experience in an industry or area you are interested in.
  • If you already have a job, talk to your boss about taking on more shifts, transferring from part-time to full-time, or taking on more responsibility.
  • Look around for a new job to hang onto for a year.


Doing some study is also an option during your gap year. You might want to get into a course that requires particular skills. You might just want to get more familiar with the area you will be studying in.

Short courses and online courses can be a way to get more skills and knowledge so you are feeling ready when you start your university or TAFE course.

For example, if you want to do a fine arts degree you might spend your gap year doing some art-related courses and then spend some time creating your folio.


Volunteering is a great way to learn skills while contributing to the community.

There is a lot of flexibility in volunteering. You can volunteer on projects close to home or on the other side of the world. You can volunteer by yourself or as part of a team. You can volunteer for a short or long time.

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Some examples of volunteering you could do on your gap year include:

  • helping to build homes in Vietnam or preserve Amazon rainforest in Ecuador
  • running after-school activities for school-children in Central Australia
  • helping out at the local op-shop or soup kitchen.

Returning to study

If you were accepted into a course at the start of your gap year, by the end of your gap year you might have decided you do not want to do that course any more.

For example:

  • You might have found a job you want to hang onto.
  • You might have volunteered with an organization you want to apply for a job with.
  • You might have changed your mind about the course you want to do.

This is perfectly alright. One reason people take gap years is to have experiences that could change their mind about where they want to be in the future.

You do not have to do the course you were accepted into. However, before deciding you do not want to do that course, it is important to think carefully about that decision. Talk to your family and friends about it. You might even discuss it with work colleagues or your boss.

Once you have decided, you need to let the course provider know you will not be studying with them. Keep in mind that there might be cut-off dates for pulling out of courses.

Once you have got that settled, you can start working on your new plans for the future.