Taking a year out after your A levels to go travelling or work abroad sounds appealing to most students, especially if a 4 year course at university lies in front of you. In some cases, university students decide to take a gap year before they start full time work.
Whatever your situation, deciding whether a gap year is right for you can be tough. We’ve put together this guide to highlight some of the positive things that can come from taking a year out from studying.
A sense of achievement
Taking a year off from your studies to sit in front of the TV defeats the purpose of taking a gap year. The idea is to challenge yourself to do something that will give you new life skills and build your character.
Do something worthwhile
Some people choose to volunteer in developing countries, helping local communities. As well as being immensely fulfilling, this give you the chance to contribute something to the world while you have the time available to do it.
It also allows you to develop as a human being and see a scale of need beyond what you're used to from your own life and the people around you. You'll come back a more well-rounded human being with a more balanced view of the world.
It could also lead you towards a career helping others in the charity sector, as well as giving you valuable experience to boost applications in this area.
Work towards your dream job
If you already have your ideal career mapped out in your head, then you can try to find a job in that particular field during your gap year. If you want to be a teacher for example, what better way to gain experience than to take up an English Language teaching job abroad?
See new parts of the world
When you leave education and have the grown-up responsibilities of work, bills and family commitments, holidays abroad often end up limited to the odd city break or week away in the south of France.
With a whole year between now and your next commitment, a gap year gives you the chance to see parts of the world you might not get the chance to visit for a very long time, at a time in your life when you're healthy, and fit enough to explore in all terrains.
You might be surprised to learn it, but this breadth of experience can bring so much to your CV beyond the usual employability skills, because during your travels you'll develop the new perspectives, independence, resourcefulness and maturity that a lot of other young candidates may be lacking.
Learn to pay your way
Your travels will force you to take control of your own finances, budget for your expenses, and potentially work from time to time to pay your way. This is great experience if you're going to university and the self-discipline and money-handling skills will be very handy when you start work.
Going on a gap year can be expensive, but it can be quite profitable as well!
Nowadays, lots of students take a year out to work abroad, doing a whole variety of things, whether it be working with kids at Camp America or as a holiday rep in Ibiza. Interestingly, according to our Success at School poll, most students would prefer to spend their gap year in America over anywhere else.
It’s absolutely possible to take a gap year, have fun, meet new people and earn money at the same time. UK university fees are expensive and being able to save before you come back can be a huge advantage, especially during your first year when you’re most likely to be out spending.
At eighteen years old, you may already be full of wisdom but there’s no better way to become truly worldly wise than to travel. Once you start university, before you know it, you’ll be graduating and then you’ll be working and then... you get the picture.
Learn about other societies and cultures
You've probably been abroad, but the chances are your gap year will be your first proper look at other societies and cultures. Being whisked from the place you've spent all your life to an unfamiliar environment on the other side of the world will bring a new sense of scale and perspective to your life which could make you see things in an entirely different light.
Being able to appreciate things from different points of view is a hugely valuable skill for any university student.
Gain new skills
A broader, less me-centred outlook will be an immense boon in your working life too, as it will help you put work problems into perspective and see things from colleagues' and customers' points of view.
During your travels, you’ll also develop a whole range of new skills that will impress employers when it comes to applying for jobs. Whether it's the direct employability skills you'll get from working a part-time job while you're away, or transferable skills you pick up by sharing digs with others and getting along with people very different from yourself..
Find your independence
It might sound corny, but taking a gap year after secondary school can really help you "find yourself" and learn more about who you are as a person.
When we remove ourselves from our everyday routines and challenge ourselves to something new, we learn a lot about our personalities, how we cope in certain situations and what our strengths and weaknesses are.
Being comfortable with who you are will make you more confident and relaxed in your work or studies, and help you deal with and bounce back from the problems life throws at us from time to time.