Should I take a gap year now or wait till later in my career?
Gap years do not have to be taken at the outset of a career, or before going to work.
There is a case for getting it out of the way early (when you have no responsibilities), but sometimes you can get more out of your gap year by taking it when you've had some work experience.
You can take a gap year after completing A-levels and before going to university. In this case, it provides a welcome respite from studying and gives you a chance to re-energise your objectives.
You can take your gap year after university, where, like the above, it provides an important break from studying and lets you 'get out into the real world' after years of academia.
In many ways, whether you take a gap year early or later depends upon what you want to do. If you have a fixed career path and know exactly how to get there then you may not feel the need to do a gap year. You may simply want to progress your studies and career in a straight and uninterrupted line.
If this is the case, there is always the chance that having achieved your employment objectives, you'll be able to take a gap year later on in your career perhaps in the form of a sabbatical – obviously such decisions will be in accordance with your employers wishes.
If, like many students, you are unsure of exactly what you want to study, then a gap year provides you with a chance to think and clear your head, rather than rushing into something. It certainly gives you a wider perspective on what you want and who you are.
You can use your gap year as a sort of reward for doing well at universoty. Taking it after you have completed your degree gives you motivation to do well.
The decision when to take a gap year may become one of necessity. You may prefer to spend an experience-gaining break doing something positive or challenging rather than looking around for jobs which are hard to come by. Future employers may even see this as a positive reason to hire you.
It's quite reasonable that you may not know exactly what you want to do. In this case, time spent away from the pressure caused by indecision could help dictate your eventual choice of occupation.
As is the case with most things in life, when and why you take your gap year is obviously led by your personal circumstances and character. As a rule, it's always better to take your gap year as positive move rather than as a safety net because you haven't got a plan.
The key is to plan what you want first and then how the gap year can best be a part of your life rather than the other way around. If you're not sure, asking others who have done a gap year and why they did it will provide you with some valuable advice and direction.