So you read our article on reasons to take a gap year after your HSC and you followed our advice. Perhaps you spent the year travelling or working or doing something else entirely. Great work!
I returned to study Mathematics after having travelled on and off for two years, and so had to navigate the challenges involved with returning to full-time study after time off.
Now you’ve decided that you’re ready to give uni a try, and perhaps you are unsure on a couple of things. Like …
Will I be at a disadvantage when applying?
The short answer is no. After a gap year, you will apply to your desired university course exactly the way that everyone else does: through UAC. The only difference is that you will need to tick a box to say that you are a ‘Non-Year 12 Applicant’. Unfortunately your application fee will be a little more expensive.
Other than that, however, UAC will assess your application in the same manner they do everyone else’s. This will mean that you will receive offers based on your ATAR in the same way everyone else does.
For the most part, you are no more or less likely to get into your course as a result of your gap year.
Is it hard to return to full-time study?
Getting back into the rhythm of full-time study can be slightly jarring, certainly. Depending on what you’re doing (STEM vs. Humanities, for instance) it can feel more or less intense.
That being said, if you’ve spent your gap year working you will almost certainly find full-time study to be less physically intense. The difficult adjustment to make is the idea of your leisure time. You will find that at different parts of the year, uni work will flood into the time that you are not physically spending at uni.
The key to success at uni is often being organised and able to keep track of multiple tasks. In this sense, the experience you gained during your gap year (whether travelling or working or other) will hold you in good stead.
What about the social side?
When you finish Year 12 and head straight to uni, everyone is in the same boat. You might have friends from school in your course, or at least you will be funnelled into a heap of friend-making orientation days.
As a ‘Non-Year 12’ entrant, you might find things a bit different. You might not feel the impulse to make a whole heap of friends straight away, since you’ve already been out of school for a year. I saw many people in similar situations spend the first year or two of their degree without really involving themselves in the social fabric of their degree.
Depending on what you’re studying, this might not work. As someone who is not coming straight from year 12 into their degree, you will need to make a more conscious effort to get to know people. Join a society for your degree, get to know the people in your tutorials, etc.
The core idea is: make an effort. You will find your uni experience to be pretty lonely if you don’t make the effort to connect with other people in your course. No matter how passionate you are about what you are studying, you will be better off for the company, both academically and non-academically.
Overall, you should be proud of yourself for taking the step back into full-time study. There will be some challenges, of course, but in the end hopefully the experience you gained in your year off will see you through.
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Travis McKenna has just finished a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy at the University of Sydney, and will be heading over to America for Grad School in the near future. He enjoys learning languages, playing cricket and writing short stories.