When, Why and How To Take a Gap Year

The recent pandemic and the worldwide restrictions that followed made gap years all but impossible. But now that restrictions are easing, people are free to make plans once more.

Just make sure you check the government’s latest guidance and the latest Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidance to ensure there are no restrictions at home or abroad that could scupper your plans.

What is a Gap Year?

A gap year is a yearlong break students take from their studies. But don’t think of a gap year as a year of doing nothing! You could use the gap year to do something useful.

Why Should I Take a Gap Year?

If you want to travel, enhance your CV, learn new skills and make new friends, a gap year can help you do all this, and more. It can also be a well-deserved break from your studies.

Can I Defer My University Place?

If you’ve already got a place at university, you might be able to defer your acceptance for a year. But if you want to do this, you might have to make your case to the university to explain why you think the gap year would benefit you. Head here to read the full UCAS guidance on deferred entry.

Can You Take a Gap Year During University?

Though the term ‘gap year’ usually applies to the period between leaving secondary school and starting higher education, you can technically take a gap year at any point in your studies. Just talk to your personal tutor or admissions department and they’ll advise you on any forms you may need to fill in.

How To Take a Gap Year

Some people use their gap years to travel – to see parts of the world they wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Others use their gap years to work – either to build up experience in their chosen field, or just to earn a bit of money before they start university. You can also use your gap year to volunteer for a cause you believe in.

No matter how you spend it, a gap year can have a positive effect on a CV. It’s a chance to gain some valuable experience, and to prove you can set yourself goals, and achieve them. A gap year can also demonstrate your abilities at managing your own time, and at pushing yourself to achieve something new.

How to Plan Your Gap Year

The first step to planning your gap year should be to determine just why you want to do a gap year.

Which of these applies to you? Do you want to:

  • Take a break from studying
  • Spend some time deciding what you want to do.
  • Earn some money
  • Gain new skills and experience
  • Travel
  • Support a cause you believe in

Or maybe it’s a combination of the above?

In any case, thinking about what you want to get out of your experience will help you decide how best to spend your gap year.

Gap Year Ideas and Inspiration

If you’ve no idea where to start, don’t worry. There are many organisations out there who specialise in running gap year schemes. Some of them will fill a whole year, whereas others will last just a few weeks or months.

Take a look at these resources for some inspiration:

  • Year Out Group – Specialising in “adventure travel programs”, including work as a ski or surf instructor, and numerous community and conservation projects.
  • Real Gap Experience – Offering 150 trips and experiences in 50 countries across six continents.
  • BUNAC – Specialising in “working holidays and internships”.
  • Trailfinders – They run a “travel academy” offering a range of gap year and student travel opportunities.
  • International Citizen Service – A government funded service providing international placements for UK citizens aged 18-25.

For any scheme you consider, read as many reviews and testimonials as you can. Also head to social media and online forums, to see what people have to say about these experiences.

How to Plan Gap Year Volunteering

Many people choose their gap year to volunteer for a worthy cause.

Most of the resources we linked to above provide international volunteering opportunities. But it’s also possible to find volunteering placements closer to home.

Try the following services for starters:

Spend your gap year volunteering and you can make a real difference to the world while meeting new people and learning new skills. This might be the most rewarding way to spend your gap year. But don’t take our word for it! Try Googling “My Volunteering Story” and you’ll likely find loads of people talking about how volunteering changed their lives, and the lives of others.

Learn a New Skill

One final idea for your gap year – spend your time learning a new skill that’ll stay with you for life.

You could learn a new language, or learn how to programme. Or you could learn a practical skill, such as carpentry or mechanics.

You could even spend part of your gap year learning how to drive. And imagine how popular you’ll be at university if you know how to drive!

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