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Is Taking an Academic Break the Right Decision for You?

May 07, 2024


academic break

Have you ever heard of the term "gap year" within academia? What does it mean?

For those encountering it for the first time, a gap year in academics refers to a period when students take time off after completing high school or before starting college or university, or basically also known as academic break.

During a gap year, students take time off from formal education and instead engage in activities such as travelling, volunteering, or focusing on personal development. In Malaysia, the practice of taking an academic break is not widespread among the majority of students. 

Only a few choose to put off their tertiary education for a while. However, this decision is still encouraged as it provides students with an opportunity to rest and return to their studies with renewed vigor, aiming for better academic outcomes.

Why do students take an academic break?

Students take a gap year from academics for various reasons. Here are some of the most common reasons:

1. Focus on personal growth

Students who take a gap year often prioritize personal development, utilizing this time to engage in experiences that contribute to their growth and character.

But how exactly can you foster personal development during this time?

One effective method is through participation in volunteer work. Whether within your local community or abroad, volunteering offers you the opportunity to positively impact society. 

Through volunteering, you cultivate essential skills such as teamwork, communication, and leadership. You also develop empathy and compassion as you collaborate with diverse groups of people and contribute to meaningful causes. 

Whether you are constructing homes in underprivileged communities or participating in environmental conservation projects, the experiences gained through volunteering often leave a profound impact, shaping your values and perspectives.

Another avenue for personal development is through self-discovery. Liberated from the confines of academic studies, you have the freedom to explore your interests, passions, and strengths. You can uncover new talents, hobbies, and career aspirations through travel or work. 

You may opt to learn a new language or immerse yourself in different cultures. This period of exploration frequently leads to a deeper understanding of yourself and the world, enabling you to develop a strong sense of identity and purpose. 

By stepping outside your comfort zone and embracing new and unfamiliar challenges, you gain valuable insights into your capabilities and potential, laying a robust foundation for your future personal and academic growth.

2. Academic burnout

The academic journey can be demanding, and some students may find themselves exhausted by the time they complete high school.

If you plan to take an academic break, it allows you to step away from the pressures of academia, providing a much-needed break to rest and recharge. 

This time away from structured learning offers you an opportunity to relax, decompress, and regain your enthusiasm for education. By taking a step back and allowing yourself to rejuvenate, you can return to your studies feeling refreshed and ready to tackle new challenges with renewed energy and motivation.

Moreover, during an academic break, you have the chance to reflect on your academic and career goals. Freed from the day-to-day demands of school, you can take the time to evaluate your interests, passions, and aspirations. 

This period of reflection enables you to assess whether your current academic path aligns with your long-term objectives. You can explore different career options, research potential majors, and consider how your skills and interests fit into the larger context of your future plans. 

Doing so will allow you to take the time to reassess your goals, ensuring you are on the right path and making informed decisions about your academic and professional future.

3. Financial constraints 

Taking an academic break can also be a strategic financial decision for many students. Some students choose to work during their gap year to save money for college tuition or to reduce their reliance on student loans.

If you decide to work full-time or part-time, you can accumulate funds to cover your educational expenses and reduce the financial burden on yourself and your family.

Moreover, for many students, economic hardship is a reality, and in some cases, taking a gap year becomes a necessity due to financial constraints or unexpected circumstances. Some students come from families with limited financial resources, making it difficult for them to afford the costs associated with higher education.

For these students, taking an academic break provides an opportunity to work and save money, allowing them to better afford the expenses of college when they eventually enroll.

Also read: 14 Tips on How To Save Money As A Student

What are the potential drawbacks of Malaysian students taking a break from academics?

While it's true that taking a break from academics can offer valuable experiences and provide ample time to address personal matters, there are several potential drawbacks to consider if you're thinking about taking a gap year. Some of these drawbacks include:

1. Delayed academic progression

Taking a gap year may delay your academic progression, which is one of the main concerns for many students. This delay could potentially lengthen the overall duration of your education and postpone your entry into the workforce.

During your gap year, you may find yourself a year behind your peers who chose not to take a break from academics. 

As a result, you might need to adjust your academic and career timelines accordingly. This delay could also impact your financial situation, as you may need to budget for an additional year of living expenses and tuition fees.

2. Loss of academic momentum

During your gap year, you may have become accustomed to a different routine, with fewer academic responsibilities and more freedom to pursue personal interests. 

Returning to the structured environment of academic studies may feel overwhelming at first, and it may take some time to readjust to the demands of coursework, assignments, and exams.

Furthermore, staying motivated and focused on your studies after a gap year can be challenging. You may find it hard to regain the same level of academic drive and determination that you had before your break. 

Because of that you may experience a dip in your academic performance or struggle to keep up with your coursework.

3. Lack of formal education routine

When you take a break from academics, you may find yourself lacking the routine provided by formal education. 

Without the daily schedule of classes, assignments, and exams, you might struggle to stay motivated or focused on your goals. This lack of structure could lead to feelings of aimlessness or uncertainty about your future.

Without the accountability of academic deadlines and responsibilities, it's easy to lose sight of your long-term goals and aspirations. You may find yourself procrastinating or putting off important tasks, leading to a sense of frustration or dissatisfaction with your progress.

Also read: 6 Effective Time Management Skills Tips For Students

What should you consider before taking an academic break?

If you're considering taking a break from your higher education, there are several factors you need to think about carefully, such as: 

1. Academic progression

If you take an academic break, you may find yourself a year behind your peers who chose not to take a break. This delay could affect your future plans, such as pursuing further education or starting a career. 

Additionally, consider how taking a break will impact your financial situation. You may need to budget for an additional year of living expenses and tuition fees, which could put a strain on your finances.

2. Personal growth timeframe

During your academic break, you will have the chance to explore different interests, develop new skills, and gain valuable life experiences. 

Whether you decide to travel, volunteer, pursue hobbies, or tackle personal challenges, this time away from school can offer you valuable insights and perspectives.

However, it is important to decide how much time you want to dedicate to self-development. Spending too much time solely on personal growth may raise questions about your tertiary education. Especially, in today's job market, many employers require a university degree as a basic requirement for most careers.

So, you need to set a reasonable timeframe for self-development. Don't postpone formal education for too long, as it might lead to feelings of uncertainty and a lack of confidence when you decide to return to university studies.

3. Consider your re-entry plan

As you return to academic life, you need to consider how you will readjust to the rigors of academic studies and re-engage with coursework, assignments, and exams.

You can start by creating a structured plan for your return to school. Outline the steps you need to take to get back on track academically, including reviewing your course materials and organizing your study schedule. 

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