If you’re delaying university this year to take some time out, you’ll be joining over two million other students who choose to plan their own adventure for the next 12 months. 

Travelling is a popular choice for many, offering the chance to explore new places and soak up a different culture. But if you’re not bitten by the travel bug, or want to add another kind of experience to your break, what are the alternatives?

1. Volunteer

An option that can easily be worked into any travel plans you may have. Volunteering provides the best of both worlds if you are looking to visit other countries, but want to gain some valuable skills and experience that will help you later in life. 

There are a wide number of volunteering options offered by well-known international agencies, as well as smaller and more independent organisations. These range from conservation and animal rescue programs, to teaching sports and getting involved in a community development project

Whatever skills and knowledge you would like to gain, there is a volunteer program out there for everyone.

2. Learn something new

If there is a sport, language or any other skill you are passionate about or have always fancied trying, now’s your chance! Perhaps you want to improve your rugby tackling, or have a go at staying on a surf board?

Again, you will find many organisations that offer set or tailored programs to ensure you get the most out of the experience. If you’re not keen on travelling overseas, or your budget won’t stretch, there are of course plenty of places in the UK where you sign up for a program.

3. Retake exams

If you’re disappointed with your A level results, or want to try and achieve higher grades to enter a more reputable university, you can opt to spend some of your year out swotting up for a second attempt and retaking your A level exams

Unfortunately, you will now have to wait longer to re-sit your exams, since January retakes were scrapped in 2012. A-level retakes now only take place in June, so if you are considering this option, it’s worth taking a close look at how far off you were from the grades you needed. 

Check with the universities you are applying to on whether higher grades will be required second time around for the same course. Next, think about if you can realistically obtain the grades - be honest about your academic abilities and how you’ve performed during your A-levels so far. This will help you decide how long you need to study for to bring your grades up to speed. 

4. Find a job

This is a productive way to spend some of your time out, especially if you can secure a job in an industry or field that is relevant to what you will be studying at university, and want to begin a career in.

It will look great on your CV to potential employers when you’ve completed your course. Any skills and experience gained are likely to be relevant in some shape or form to any jobs you apply for. These include time management, communication, teamwork, problem-solving, IT and presentation skills. 

That hard-earned cash will also be a ticket to your gap year adventures, or come in handy as a textbook and beer fund when you start your studies

5. Travel

As mentioned earlier, this is one of the most popular options for gappers. If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting a particular country or landmark, this is one of the best chances you’ll have to fulfil it. 

The world is your oyster, and if you make your plans well in advance, you’re likely to make savings on flights and accommodation

While some head to the sun-kissed shores of Australia and Africa, there’s plenty of sightseeing to be done closer to home in neighbouring European cities, too. 

As well as becoming more independent, travelling around the world can teach you vital skills that will put you ahead of the rest when entering the job market. 

There are other ways you can choose to spend your gap year - these are just the most common ones - so research options thoroughly before making any concrete plans. 

Further information

For more tips and advice on taking a gap year, please see:

If you have any stories about your own gap year, or any further suggestions on what activities you can do, please pop them below!