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What is a gap year and should I take one?

More and more students are choosing to take a gap year, either before or after starting their university education.

Whether you choose to get a job to pay for your degree, volunteer in an orphanage in Africa or travel round the world, a gap year has many advantages.

First of all though...

What is a Gap year?

A Gap year is a 12 month break from study taken by some students before they start their degree, to help them gain work experience and valuable life skills.

Some people choose to take their gap year before starting sixth form, before they start a postgraduate course or even after they have completed all formal education, before entering the worforce.

Whenever you decide to take your gap year, there are many different things you can choose to do: volunteer, get a paid job, learn new skills, or travel round the world.

There is something to suit every taste, so if a gap year sounds like an attractive option to you, read the rest of our Gap Year Guide to find out more!

Top Reasons to take a Gap year

Challenges

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but never feel you could actually do it? Want to climb a mountain but are afraid of heights?

Want to trek through a jungle but scared of being bitten by insects?

Everyone has their fears, but there are loads of people out there to help you face your challenges and reap the rewards.

Experience life 

A Gap year is the chance to be completely independent and gain a meaningful experience, an opportunity you may not have again later on in your life.

It will help improve your self-confidence, along with personal skills such as communication, leadership and organisation.

Discovery

If you choose to go travelling, you will see and explore parts of the world you’ve always wanted to visit.

By having the freedom to travel around and choose how long you spend in each place, you will have plenty of time to fit in everything you want to do.

Building friendships on your journey is a certainty, and you will have some fantastic stories to tell everyone when you get back home!

Learning

By the time you have completed your gap year, you will have gained new skills and experiences.

These will enhance a CV and a UCAS application, meaning you will be looked more favourably upon by potential employers and university admissions tutors, as you will stand out from other candidates by having done something interesting.

Personal achievement

Undertaking a Gap year volunteer project or going abroad to learn a language can give you a real sense of personal achievement.

Although you may find it challenging, it will also be very rewarding, as well as the chance to experience local life in another country first-hand and give something to their communities.

Money

Many students these days take a year out to do paid work to finance their higher education.

With university tuition fees in the UK now at a maximum of £9,000, students are opting to work in order to pay off some of the costs before they even start their degree.

If you plan to travel during your gap year, a paid job for some of those 12 months is likely to be essential.

There are hundreds of temporary jobs to apply for so you can raise the cash you need for your travels.

If you already have a particular career in mind, then getting a paid job in your field is a bonus. This will boost your CV and look good to employers when you’ve finished your degree, or start looking for jobs after your Gap year if you decided university isn’t right for you.

Time-out

You’ve been in school for most of your life, so it’s natural to feel you simply just want some time away from studying.

Taking a break will make you feel refreshed so you will be more focussed at university.

It also gives you time to reflect on what you plan to do next with your life. This includes whether applying to university was the right decision, or considering your career options if you’re going straight into employment.

Some students change their degree course and/or future profession as a result of their gap year, so the experiences from taking a year out can prove invaluable.

Although you may have decided a gap year appeals to you and you want to take one, cast an eye over the following factors that may be considered disadvantages, in case they cast any doubt on your decision.

  • Friends will be a year ahead of you
  • When you come back you might not want to go to university anymore having had such a long break from studying
  • Your study skills may have diminished
  • Risk of getting injured or sick
  • Experience could turn out to be a disappointment

If you still feel a gap year is the right option for you, check out some of the best gap year escape plans over at our blog.