A Gap Year is essentially a break typically taken between school and university or college that might include a combination of travel, work, study, volunteering, or research. It is also a time for students to explore the world, become more self-aware and self-confident and learn valuable life skills while at the same gaining a sense of independence. What it most certainly is not is a ‘year off’!
It is estimated that about seven per cent of UK university applicants make the decision to defer their entry for twelve months in order to take a Gap Year. It has declined from a peak of about twenty per cent a generation ago, but the world is now a much more dangerous place for travellers and competition for places on courses at popular universities has led to a rethink about whether or not it is wise to have a break before starting a degree programme.
For those who want to travel abroad there are many companies to choose from who offer Gap Year activities in areas such as Africa, Asia and Latin America and Europe. There are lots of projects to choose from, such as working with endangered wildlife or environmental conservation projects to teaching underprivileged children. You decide to travel independently or go with a Gap Year company, such as Raleigh International, ( www.raleighinternational.org ) or greenFORCE ( firstname.lastname@example.org ). Companies offering ‘packaged’ overseas programmes for Gap Year students are not cheap although raising the money to join them is a challenge and experience in itself. There are also organisations that can help students find voluntary work such as Voluntary Service Overseas ( www.vso.org.uk ).
The alternative to travelling abroad is to stay in the UK and plan a really constructive year which can be a mixture of work experience, community service and learning a new skill such as a foreign language, or getting an internship in a job that is related to your chosen degree course.
Generally universities do not mind if students decide to take a Gap Year before starting their courses. There is a feeling that a well thought out year will help a student mature and have a more interesting CV than one that is based entirely on academic ability. This can often help in the modern world and give you the edge in the graduate employment market. However, it is also a fact that in certain subjects, especially in the sciences and mathematics, university admissions tutors discourage a Gap Year, as they feel that a break in your studies will also mean that you might lose the study skills you built up in your school exam courses. It is worth checking with universities if you are deciding on taking a Gap Year.
GOOD REASONS FOR YOU TO TAKE A GAP YEAR
- Thinking time: One benefit of taking a year out is the extra time you have to consider all your options and help you to disco ver the subject you’re really most passionate about, and the types of course, institution and location that will suit you best .
- Travel: Travelling is one of the most popular ways to spend a gap year,
- Earn some money: As you’ve probably noticed, going to university tends to be pretty expensive. If you can spend at least part of your gap year working, and manage to save up some money, you’ll have a bit of a head start/safety buffer.
- Learn a new language: If you are going to study abroad now is the time to brush up your language skills.
- Visit the ‘University of Life’: Whatever you do with your gap year, simply taking time out from academia can be beneficial. The gains are difficult to pin down, but may include getting a clearer idea of what’s most important to you, becoming more independent and self-confident, and also just feeling refreshed and truly ready to get stuck in to that degree!