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【The Standard:Study in the UK】Mind the gap

Boarding 101


TAKING A GAP year is once again an option for UK students after years of recession-related gloom and the knock-on effects of higher university tuition fees.


Postponing entrance to college has also become more popular in other Western countries, such as the United States. So is it time for Hong Kong students to follow suit?


Another dimension has been added to the meaning of “gap year.” The gap year was once associated with exotic travels, heroic adventures and taking a well-earned break after the rigors of academics and excessive cramming.


These days it is less about winding down and more about working to enhance one’s CV, UCAS personal statement or to earn money before starting university.


In the United States, Harvard College actively advises students to postpone entrance to university for a year. Harvard has, maintained the same stance for around 40 years, even advocating a gap year in the letter of admission.


Back in the UK, universities and admissions tutors have become more prescriptive about what students get up to on a gap year. Students are advised to spend their time wisely and make their experiences stand out in their personal statement.


Saving money, learning how to budget and getting a feel for the world of work are all factors that will be looked upon favorably by admissions tutors. In terms of self-improvement, perhaps there is more to gain from these factors compared with trekking through a jungle.


It is logical that gaining relevant experience related to a degree course could put a student at a significant advantage when it comes to writing a personal statement and actually completing a degree course.


Those hoping to become social workers, doctors and vets could travel abroad to make a real difference to disadvantaged communities.


Fields such as social work and medicine also open up doors to volunteering, where gap-year students can still pick up valuable leadership and decision-making skills.


The Hong Kong government has showed signs of encouraging students to take a gap year.


Of course, everything depends on a family’s finances, but HKDSE students who feel burned-out after years of cramming could well benefit from a work experience placement, learning about another culture or improving their English skills before starting university in the UK or United States.


The Standard, Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Samuel is the founder of boarding school placement company –
Britannia StudyLink.