Youths talk about why they are taking a break from studying before going on to university
Going straight to university after graduation may seem like the most obvious route, but an increasing number of students are taking a year off before hitting the books again.
“After studying for about 13 years, my interest in continuing my studies is slowly dying, so I have decided to take a year off to recharge,” says Choi Seen Teng, 19, a final-year Biomedical Science student.
She is not alone.
Santhi Ponmudi, 21, a Biomedical Science graduate who spent two weeks travelling in Europe after graduation, says, “It was a welcomed break from doing research in my final year. I wanted to escape from my hectic lifestyle for awhile.”
In an article titled ‘Uni can wait, I’m taking a gap year’ published in The Straits Times on Jun 22, 2009, it was reported that every year, the National University of Singapore (NUS) grants some 250 students leave of absence for academic or personal reasons. A handful of students at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) also request for permission to take a gap year each year.
However, a gap year is not always all play and no work.
Ng Lye Ee, 21, a Mass Communication graduate, chose to volunteer with the International Humanity Foundation for a month, teaching English and organising drama classes at an orphanage in Jakarta.
“It was a solo trip to an unfamiliar place, not exactly knowing what I’d do. But I really wanted to give back to the world because I feel that I’ve been very fortunate,” she says.
For Santhi and Lye Ee, taking a gap year was not a spur of the moment decision. They had worked and saved up before embarking on their journeys.
“My parents are very supportive of my passion for volunteering, so they helped a little by topping up the difference in the money I needed,” says Lye Ee about the $700 she spent.
For some gappers (a term to describe students who take gap years), this time is absolutely essential for them to decide on their next course in life.
“It’s for me to mull over my options, to decide on what I want to do in the future,” says Millison Chua, 21. The Pharmacy Science graduate has since taken on jobs in the sales and administration sectors.
Meanwhile, Atikah Chang, 21, an Early Childhood Education graduate, reaffirmed the passion she had in her field of study through her current job as a kindergarten teacher at PAP Community Foundation Choa Chu Kang.
That said, a common concern among polytechnic graduates when considering a gap year is how it will affect their chances of securing a place in university.
The admissions offices at NUS, NTU and the Singapore Management University (SMU) say that admissions are based solely on academic results. NUS allows polytechnic students to apply during their graduating year – even if they intend to enter the university at a later time.
Similarly, most other local and foreign universities keep confirmed placements for up to a year.
An exception is NTU, which does not allow for deferred enrolments except for confirmed male applicants entering National Service.
This has put some off taking a gap year.
“It may be a risky move as the universities’ cut-off score for grade point average might increase after a year,” says Seen Teng.
Still, she feels that taking a gap year to work will eventually pay off.
“The industry experiences I will gain would give me a competitive edge over other university applicants,” she says.
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