Gap Year Guidance

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Everyone chooses to do different things during their gap years so the one key piece of advice we can offer is that you do what you want to do, not what anyone is forcing you to do. Want to work? Do it. Want to volunteer on the other side of the world? Do it. Want to spend time to get to know you? Do it!

Whatever it is you choose to do, there’s no better time to do it than during your gap year. Here are some tips to get you on your way.

Pros Cons
An opportunity to have a break from studying and return refreshed. You can volunteer, get valuable work experience, and travel the world. Some people find a year out becomes a distraction from their longer term plans.
A productive gap year can be valuable on your CV. An unstructured year out may not add much value to your future – careful thought and planning is essential.
You could relate the experience and activities to the subject area you plan to study. It can be harder to return to study or work after a year-long break.
You can earn and save money towards your higher education costs or future plans. It can be expensive and you could find yourself in a worse financial position at the end.
You will develop maturity if you don’t yet feel ready for higher education or work life. For some careers, it can be an advantage to be slightly older and have some life experience. If you don’t get organised, you may end up spending your gap year just ‘thinking about it’.


Consider your ‘why’!

The list below shows reasons why people have been known to take gap years.

  • Study break
  • Gain new skills
  • Indulge in new experiences
  • Earn money
  • Spend time deciding what to do for your future
  • All of the above

There are advantages and disadvantages worth considering when deciding your ‘why’, take a look.


Research Your Choice

It’s imperative that you plan ahead, no matter what your gap year idea is, and you need to plan in good timing (last minute decisions aren’t worth it). For example, there are popular voluntary schemes out there with strict deadlines, and you’ll need to manage how to pay for airfares or visas.

There are loads of ideas you could consider – some might fill an entire year, others a few weeks or months. You could also combine more than one idea.

There is a wide range of gap year and volunteering schemes available. If you’re using an agency or scheme, check out how long they have been running, if they are financially sound, and are members of a reputable organisation, such as ABTA or Year Out Group, where they agree to follow a code of conduct.


Gap Year Ideas

  • Volunteering– support a worthwhile cause and gain valuable experience. You could take part in a wildlife conservation project, teach children, or help build a school in a third world country.
  • Travel– explore the world, discover new cultures, and develop your independent living skills at the same time! You could go backpacking across South East Asia, InterRail through Europe, or buy a round the world plane ticket!
  • Paid employment– earn money and gain new skills at home or aboard. You could work on an outback farm in Australia, as a ski lift operator in Canada, or at a backpacker hostel in New Zealand.
  • Work experience– if you want to gain relevant experience and skills for a particular career or subject you plan to study, you could consider a work placement or internship. These can last from a few weeks to a year. Depending on the type of contract on offer, you may or may not receive a salary. These are very popular and competition for places is high, so you will need to apply early.
  • Part-time courses– why not take the opportunity to try something new? You could take up a new language, learn how to programme, try a new sport or music instrument, or learn a new practical skill, such as mechanics, carpentry, or cookery.

Useful Links



Don’t forget to let us know how you’ve gotten on.

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