Please, mind the gap year

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Irish Leaving Certificate students spend two academic years studying before facing into two or three weeks of strenuous exams. So it’s no wonder they are exhausted by the end of June.

The worry of CAO offers grows soon after exams they finish exams and often students wonder, “Should I take a year out and go working? Then I’ll be able to afford college life and the points for my course might drop…”.

A lot of parents discourage their children from taking gap years in the fear that they will fall out of the habit of studying, or that they will enjoy having a bit of money coming in and will head down a path where they are employed with no degree.

Other parents are supportive and mindful that their child might be too young to head into college. Or are not mentally ready to take the leap to move away from home.

So is a gap year after the Leaving Certificate a good or a bad thing?

Earlier this year Malia Obama announced that she was going to take a year out after high school before entering third level, which gives students as good an argument as any against the anti-gap-year parents.

Since her announcement there has been a surge in the amount of students across the United States.

In a recent Forbes interview on the topic, chief executive of ‘Hostelworld’, Feargal Mooney said that taking a gap year in Europe is “quite common”.

Hostelworld also took a survey in which 26pc of 1,000 respondents said they had taken a gap year.

DCU student, Eoin Fallon, took a gap year after completing his Leaving Certificate in 2013 and felt that it benefitted him greatly.

“I thought it was a great experience. I was only gone 17 doing the [Leaving Certificate], so I thought I’d enjoy the whole college experience a bit more if I was 18, and a bit more mature.”

“It gave me the chance to build up some savings for college too. I actually only chose the course I’m doing now during my gap year.”

His classmate, Jack Conroy, also took a year out before heading into college.

“I originally went for Medicine and missed that course by ten points. I was offered my number two on my CAO but it was a course I never really wanted and just had down to fill up my CAO. So I decided to take a year out and not just accept a course that I didn’t want just for the sake of it and to be honest it was the best thing I ever did.”

“Over the year out I took my own time to look into courses without any pressure of exams and all that come with them. Then I found the course, Actuarial Maths, that I knew was right for me. It was a course I had never even considered during my Leaving Cert because I wasn’t thinking straight. I was only thinking of one thing and one thing only and that was to get the most points I could possibly get.”

“That’s why I decided not to repeat after missing Medicine because I knew I had put everything into it. During the year I really found a sense of direction and knew exactly what I wanted. When it was time to then start my course I knew I had a level of self-motivation and drive to work that I wouldn’t have had if I had gone straight from Leaving Cert into a course I never truly thought about.”

The amount of students taking a gap year before college these days is on the rise and taking a year out seems to be becoming increasingly successful. The only concern that the gap year may become problematic is that the time off will be ‘contagious’. Or that those who take the break from academic work are more likely to do so again when in the working world.

Emily Crowley 

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