While her peers were mulling over which university to choose and what to major in, Ms Sim Yan Ying was undertaking creative roles and production responsibilities in the theatre industry.
Having graduated from Hwa Chong Institution after her A levels in 2013, she shelved her pursuit of a degree to explore her passion in theatre. "Working with local theatre companies allowed me to experience different roles such as acting and stage managing. This deepened my understanding of theatre as an art and as a profession. I am more focused in university now because I have a clearer sense of purpose, and I know what I want to achieve," said the first-year drama student at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
Ms Sim, 20, is among a growing group of youth who are taking a gap year before university. Among the "gappers" whom The Straits Times spoke to, reasons for taking a gap year include volunteering, gaining work experience and travelling.
For Ms Nadia Chevroulet, 22, taking a gap year enabled her to pursue her interest in volunteer work after graduating from United World College with an International Baccalaureate diploma in 2011.
"The gap year was a great opportunity for me to do my part for wildlife conservation. Volunteering as an English teacher in Cambodia reaffirmed my passion for the language," said the English-major graduate who is currently working as a journalist.
Some others use the gap year to reaffirm their faith.
Said Ms Adeline Bee, 20: "Much of my life revolved around chasing academic excellence and I feel it did not give sufficient meaning. This prompted me to explore my faith in a Christian programme which reinforced my beliefs."
As part of the programme, Ms Bee travelled to India and Cambodia last year to do religious outreach.
But more often than not, students take a gap year to explore their options before committing to a course in university.
Ms Esther Koh, 22, made the choice to read psychology in University College London after her experience working in a pie shop.
She said: "Interacting with customers sparked my interest in understanding relationships between people. My working experience helped me to make up my mind on a course that allows me to give back to the community in the future."
Taking a gap year was a good break for Ms Chuah Jia Ying, 20, who decided to take a break from studying after her rigorous preparations for the A-level examinations.
"I felt it would be meaningful to work somewhere I wanted as opposed to spending the year studying in university," said Ms Chuah, who spent her gap year working as an urban farmer and interning in a marketing firm.
Most of those who have taken a gap year said that parental support was important to them.
Mr Tan Wea Aik, 51, an engineer, whose daughter Michel, 21, interned at an advertising firm last year, was glad that the experience affirmed her decision to study communications in university despite graduating from polytechnic with a diploma in business management.
"She now has clearer goals and knows what she is studying for," he said.