If you are considering taking a gap year after your Bachelor’s degree and before your Masters studies, then you might be on to one of the greatest learning experiences of your life. Having said that, do not forget that this is a decision which needs careful planning. Taking a year off from studying does not equal endless vacation or wasted time. The time should be meaningful and it should bring value to your future endeavours, whether academic or professional.

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When is taking a gap year the right decision?

First and foremost, taking a break from university life does not have to be everyone’s cup of tea. Some university students know very well what they want to do with their lives and their careers and they may have even partially planned it out by the time they are enrolled in their Bachelor’s programme. For example, many people who are studying Medicine or a course in a related field have already set their minds on specialising in this industry. For them, taking a gap year may not be the best course of action as it would prolong their studies even further.

However, there are others who do not follow such a straightforward path. Perhaps you are about to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree but you have not managed to find your true calling just yet. In such cases, rushing to your Masters application without giving it much thought could be a counterproductive decision which will not work in your favour. Instead, giving yourself some space after graduation can help you get to know yourself, your interests, and your strengths.

Read: The Unique Advantages of International Studies

The post-Bachelor’s gap year is also an opportunity to discover where you would like to live, study or work. For students who are having doubts about their most desirable destination around the world, taking a study break means the possibility of exploring their options more profoundly. As history student Mariette Thom told French daily paper Le Monde, the main purpose is taking time to think about your future.

How should you organise your gap year in advance?

In the best case scenario, the decision whether to take a year off from studying or not should come early enough during the course of your Bachelor’s. Setting your mind on this goal during the second or third year of the programme should give you sufficient time and energy to plan ahead. A last-minute decision could disrupt factors which are already in place such as any Masters applications you have already submitted or work-related obligations.

If you are convinced that this is the most beneficial option for your academic and professional growth and you have taken in the opinions of family and friends, you could proceed by clarifying what you want to accomplish throughout the year.

Work and internships

Finding a temporary job or an internship is one of the most commonly undertaken activities during student gap years. It gives Bachelor’s graduates the opportunity to practise what they have learned and it can help them determine if they would like to make a career in a particular role or industry. Accumulating work experience this early may also prove extremely useful when making the final choice of which Masters programme to enrol in. Should you specialise further within your field or are you willing to explore a different path?

Read: The Value of Work Experience for Masters Studies

At the same time, a post-Bachelor’s job will certainly look good on your CV/resume. Employers value self-initiative, determination, and hard work. By taking a year off from studying and focusing on gaining work experience, you will be at least one step ahead of all other graduates who have yet to have any long-term job duties.

Classes and test prep

A gap year does not have to be an entirely study-free zone. Those who have decided to pursue an international Masters degree or a business and management programme will need to invest some time in preparation. For programmes taught in English, applicants are usually required to submit an English proficiency test score such as IELTS or TOEFL, while most of the prestigious Business, Management, and Finance programmes require a good aptitude test score on the GMAT or the GRE.

Read: What Do You Need to Know about the GMAT and GRE tests

Another great option would be to learn a foreign language or to polish your current language abilities. Still, even if you do not have to sit any of these exams or improve upon your skills, compiling your Masters application package alone may take up a considerable portion of your free time. Make sure to factor in these points when planning your gap year and you will enjoy a smooth and hassle-free journey.

Volunteering and travel

Although they do not always go hand in hand, many students choose to dedicate the year between their Bachelor’s and their Masters studies to travelling and volunteering abroad. Certainly, these are two of the most rewarding activities to take up during your free time – they both have the power to expand your world view, your curiosity, and your personal and professional network. Visiting places and countries you have never been to before is a valuable way to determine the best Masters study destination for you. And needless to say, both travelling and volunteering will boost your chances of landing your dream job once you have finished your formal education. Most importantly, try to enjoy all of these activities as much as possible and take full advantage of your gap year.