What to do in a gap year

Not sure how to spend your year off after high school? These ideas are sure to inspire you. Plus, read our advice about how to get into uni once your gap year is over.

A woman wearing a backpack in a field

What is a gap year?

A gap year is when you take a year-long break between the end of high school and the start of your university studies. About 11% of school leavers decide to take time off after Year 12, because who doesn’t want a break from studying after 13 straight years of it?

Why take a gap year?

There are a lot of reasons to consider taking a gap year. You’ll continue your studies after the year off with more clarity and life experience than you would’ve otherwise had. You’ll have the chance to discover yourself without the pressure of lessons and exams, and live life away from educational environments. 

Gap years also allow you to recover in the way you need to after finishing school. There’s nothing wrong with taking time for yourself to recharge, set up your new lifestyle, or try some new things out—especially as it means you’ll arrive at uni with renewed energy and enthusiasm for learning. 

What to do during a gap year

There are plenty of options depending on your goals for the year, and you can do a combination of the suggestions below. You’re not locked into one activity for 12 months! 

1. Find your passion

A gap year is a great time to find out what your passions really are. You can volunteer in fields that you’re interested in to see if they’re a good fit. Similarly, you can try an internship to get some experience under your belt, while getting paid trying out the career you’ve been thinking about. 

You can also try out a single undergraduate subject through Open Universities Australia, without committing to a degree. This lets you get a feel for uni study and the course you’d like to pursue, as well as the university you’re thinking of studying with. Single subjects are covered by HECS-HELP so there aren’t any upfront fees, and they can count towards your degree later on if you continue with that pathway. 

Subjects only run for 10-16 weeks so they’re not a huge commitment, and they’re open for enrolment at different times throughout the year. Plus, since they’re fully online, they can be completed anywhere: which is great news if you plan to travel! 

2. Travel

Travel is probably the best-known reason for taking a gap year, and it’s a popular choice for good reason! Exploring Australia or going overseas while you’re young and carefree is wonderful for your soul, and it actually makes you a better person. You encounter people from all walks of life, and you get to have fun while facing challenges that you wouldn’t get at home. 

Travel helps you grow in the best ways, and you return more worldly, more resilient, and more tolerant of other ways of life. There really are no downsides to taking some time out to travel—well except for depleting your savings account, but the experiences you’ll gain are priceless!

3. Rest and recuperate

If you’re exhausted after Year 12, one of the best things you can do during your gap year is to rest. Like, REALLY rest, with no stress and days with no plans at all. Life is hectic and there are a lot of messages that we have to continually be studying or working to get anywhere. But rest is actually productive! If you get burnt out you’ll be very unwell, and that takes longer to recover from than some rest time now.

Listening to your body is an important skill to learn too, as it will help you identify your needs before you get too depleted again. These life skills are just as important as academics if you want to live in a healthy and balanced way as an adult. 

4. Work to save money

You might not want the pressure of an internship, but still want to earn some cash and build up your savings account. There’s nothing wrong with taking a job that you don’t want to make a career out of for a few months, or even the whole year while you save up some coin. You still get life experiences, you’ll have something to put on your resume, and when you return to study your finances will be looking good, too.   

How to apply for uni after a gap year

Don’t worry, you’re not at a disadvantage and there’s no extra work. 

Near the end of your gap year, go to your state tertiary admissions centre and proceed with your application as a non-Year 12 applicant. Just make sure you know the key close of application dates so you can get your course preferences in on time. 

Alternatively, you can apply for your course directly through Open Universities Australia. This is worth considering if you don’t meet the entry requirements for your chosen course, because we can help you find a non-ATAR pathway into your university.


Chat with a student advisor today if you’d like advice about your university enrolment options. We’re here to guide you every step of the way.


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