A gap year can provide endless opportunities whether it’s travelling around the world, learning a new skill, volunteering or getting a job to pay for your studies.
But however you decide to spend the time, the benefits must outweigh the disadvantages of taking a break from your education.
It’s traditionally a 12-month break from study taken by students before they start their degree or employment. If you have finished your A-levels and you decide this is the right path for you, then you need to spend this time wisely and really make it count. As fun as it might sound, it’s not going to impress anyone if you spend 12 months lounging around at home binge-watching shows on Netflix because let’s be honest – you can’t put that on your CV.
One beneficial way to spend a gap year is to use it to build up some work experience – either relevant to the career you have in mind or to help you to develop general skills such as IT, language and communication. Working for a year can also be a way to earn money for university, taking the pressure off your finances. Work opportunities are not just available at home as many companies run schemes allowing gap year students to work abroad on paid placements. These might include roles involving working with children or conservation work.
Many students use this time to travel, which can bring many benefits such as the chance to be independent, budgeting and learning other languages and cultures. It’s the perfect opportunity to have new experiences while standing on your own two feet for the first time. This can help make you better prepared for university, both academically and socially. But make sure you have a plan of action for when your year is up – whether it’s further study or work.
If you don’t feel ready to go on to university or higher education, then this break can also buy you some valuable thinking time before further study especially if you don’t know which course to choose.
Options include programmes such as Camp America, which provides a chance to spend your summer living and working on a summer camp in the USA. There are also volunteer programmes both here in the UK and overseas, working holiday packages, and adventure tours. Do IT is the national database of volunteering opportunities and people can search positions by interest, activity or location and apply online. The NCVO (The National Council for Voluntary Organisations) website has details of other organisations that promote volunteer vacancies.
Trailfinders Travel Academy provides opportunities such as volunteering in one of Africa’s national parks and International Citizen Service (ICS) provides overseas volunteer placements for 18-25 year olds.
Experience you gain while on a gap year can also make your CV stand out when you start applying for jobs. Consider your options and long-term goals carefully and whether taking a gap year will benefit you later on.
The UCAS website can point you in the right direction of some of the opportunities available if you decide this is the right move for you.