There’s a lot of fearmongering around study gaps that we get to hear the moment we consider pursuing further education. Let a counselor, a mentor, or even a couple of senior colleagues or ex-classmates know that it’s been years since your graduation yet you still haven’t completed a Master’s degree, and watch an alarming expression immediately cross their face.
The clock is ticking apparently, and your time is running out.
This honest concern only serves to leave us in a state of panic though, because even if we’ve become aware that there has been a delay on our part, we can hardly rush into amending it. No, because the process of applying to universities is a long and tedious one. An individual must assess their financial capabilities, the countries to apply to, the universities, and their programs. And after shortlisting, the document collection, essay writing, and form-filling process begin. It’s a lot of work. It’s not a simple fix, so the sudden rush of anxiety thrust upon us isn’t helping.
There’s no need to start questioning your life choices just yet though since there are plenty of countries open to accepting students with study gaps. Even more so, if the study gap is backed by relevant work experience in between.
WHAT ARE STUDY GAPS?
The break taken from student life is called a study gap. This means that an individual did not pursue any formal studies during this time. Study gaps generally do not account for self-studying and test-taking, which is a shame because self-studying is popular for certain valuable fields like in the case of Actuarial Science, Chartered Accountancy, Financial accounting, etc.
So, a study gap could involve a gap year you may have taken before applying for undergraduate programs after completing 12th grade, or the 2 years after your bachelor’s degree that you spent working in your field of interest.
WHY ARE STUDY GAPS DISCOURAGED?
Similar to how gaps in your resume are perceived by potential employers, study gaps are also seen in a negative light by universities. This is because it is assumed that the individual is now rusty when it comes to their previous learnings, therefore the academic documents are no longer a true reflection of their current knowledge and abilities. Not to mention, the assumption that the time spent not in education has left the individual unable to handle the pressures and demands of an educational program.
Lastly, some may even question an individual’s proactiveness and productivity due to this time-off as a student.
IT’S NOT BLACK AND WHITE
Although the explanations mentioned above are valid in questioning an applicant’s abilities, education systems are still showing more flexibility and understanding towards these breaks over the years. Even more so after the pandemic, which has prompted the acknowledgment of mental health issues as an excusable reason for academic performance declines in students.
Maybe you were not able to get into the university of your choice and decided to try again next year or your loved one passed away, there are so many hurdles that individuals face in pursuing their goals.
WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS?
Yes, you have options; the first being to apply anyway. Universities in the US easily accept applicants with study gaps, especially with relevant experience. But even an applicant with a 1-year study gap with no productivity in between is admissible as a regular occurrence. Maybe you were indulging in a hobby or needed to take constructive time-off from education, whatever the reason may be, you wouldn’t be pressured to fess up on your whereabouts and dealings during a short break of 1 year.
Let’s review the other routes that can be opted;
CONTINUING EDUCATION PROGRAMS
Canada is comparatively strict about study gaps, to the extent of even mentioning that applicants’ undergraduate degrees should not be more than 2 years old. Although, case-by-case situations are still assessed for candidacy. The workaround for this is the continuing-education programs offered by more than a few universities in Canada and the UK, as well as those in other countries. These programs allow individuals to make up for prerequisite courses or receive a refresher on previous learnings. Most of these programs allow students admittance into the related graduate degree programs within the respective university as long as the condition of specific grades is met.
DAMAGE CONTROL: RELEVANT EXPERIENCE & VOLUNTEER WORK
If there is already a study gap, do some damage control and try to attain an internship or job related to the field you wish to apply to for your Master’s Degree. Start an entrepreneurial venture relevant to the study program you intend to pursue. Get your name on a research report or a book. If you know of any colleagues, peers, or professors working on a research study or writing an informative book, then volunteer to aid in the research and writing efforts. At the end of the day, obtain the relevant experience proving your previous learning and capabilities are not out of practice.
If you have a 10-year study gap with relevant work experience during this, then you have a decent chance of admission as well. What is assessed is your ability to get through the program successfully when study gaps are taken into account, so if you have engaged in something whether an internship, job or certificate course that validates your aptitudes, then you are suitable to receive admission. Not to mention, there are even universities in the US that consider those without formal education for their competitive programs, as long as they have relevant experience. The same I’ve mentioned applies to most European universities as well.
Lastly, volunteer work is a great multifaceted option. There are so many activities an individual can engage in during volunteer work that span a range of fields like marketing, managing, administration, IT, etc. Since helping hands are often limited, volunteer work is also a superb way to showcase your leadership skills, resourcefulness and autonomy.
So, study gaps are not the end of your career. There is hope for you yet.
If you’d like further guidance on what to do now that you have a study gap, feel free to seek out a free consultation from one of our expert consultants at Edvise Hub.