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16 Apr Bridging the post graduate gap

Studying can be exhausting; maybe a gap year will refresh you! (Photographer: Mrehan)

A gap year after your studies, is that good for anything? Absolutely. Although there is a lot of information about taking a gap year between secondary school and your Bachelor’s, the opposite is true for a gap year between your Bachelor’s and your Master’s, or after your Master’s. Let me give you the information you need about both!

After your Bachelor’s: take a break or upskill yourself                                                                                                       After you have finished your Bachelor’s, you might want a break from studying, because you haven’t decided what kind of Master’s you want to follow, or whether this direction is the right one for you. Even if you love your current direction, it can be a good choice to take a year off before you start your Master’s.

No studies, now what? 

  • Working: this seems like a good option if you have a college debt or if you have to pay for your Master’s yourself. Also, it is a good preparation for the adult world, especially when you can find a job related to your field of study.
  • Travelling: learn more about different countries, different cultures or learn a new language! Now is the ultimate opportunity to travel the world. Travelling can give you a boost of energy to start your Master’s fresh and motivated. And if you don’t want to travel alone, you can ask friends or look for a travel buddy on the internet.
  • Internship or volunteer work: this is a smart move if you want to stand out from your future Master colleagues. Experience is always an advantage if you have to find a job or an institute to do a research project. There are lots of sites to find volunteer work and internships that match your study.

Apart from these options, a gap year is a great opportunity to upgrade your skills, by learning a new language, by working in a field related to your study or by learning that thing you always wanted to learn, for example obtaining a diving certification. Needless to say, you can combine all these options to make your year as productive and fun as you want.

After your Master’s: pimp your C.V.                                                                                                                                            If you haven’t taken a gap year before, you’ve been studying non-stop for at least 5 years at the university, not to mention all the years you spend attending primary and secondary school. A gap year after your Master’s is different from other gap years, because after this year, you will have to find that inevitable first job. Of course, nobody is going to stop you from taking a (well-deserved) year-long party holiday (well maybe your parents will), but it is smart to keep your future career in mind.

Pimping your C.V. is a good way to make use of your gap year. Most employers are looking for people that stand out from the crowd, so gaining an extra set of skills, some experience in the working field or overcoming your weaknesses is never a waste of time. Make sure you stay ‘attractive’ for the job market: maintain the connections you made during your Master’s and/or make new connections regarding your field of study.

Good planning is key                                                                                                                                                                   Whichever choice you make for when to do your gap year, planning is the most important part. You need to know what you’re going to do, so you don’t end up sitting on the couch for a year.

A few points that should be clear before you start your gap year:

  • What do you want to do and when?
  • How much is it going to cost?
  • Where do you get your money from?
  • Where are you going to live?
  • Upsides & downsides

Keep in mind that you don’t have a student grant during a gap year, so it is really important to know how much the year is going to cost you and how you are going to pay for it. Where you are going to live may sound like a stupid question, but since you don’t have a student grant anymore, you might not be able to pay for your student room. Furthermore, some student housings have a rule about moving out when you’re not studying. Depending on what your plan is, you can consider moving back in with your parents.

Upsides & downsides          

+ A gap year helps you to start your following year fresh and motivated
+ Extra skills you learn are good for your future career
+ Now is the time: it’s harder to take a gap year when you have a full-time job
– It is not easy to plan a well-thought-out gap year
– Money might be a limiting factor
– Your future career should not be disadvantaged

Got more tips, questions or experience? Let me know in the comments!

WTFfanny

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WTF fanny

WTF fanny

Biologist (no tree hugging involved), enthusiastic, researcher, studious, creative, witty, the new Jacques Cousteau.
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