Taking a year out / gap year

The phrase 'gap year' has traditionally meant spending a year abroad on a structured programme while taking a break from study, with this rite of passage typically embraced by college leavers before they start university. However, gap years now happen at any stage, they can be taken by anyone, and for varying lengths of time.

For example, you could choose to fly off to sunnier climates and experience a different culture for a few months during your summer break. Alternatively, you may wish to stay closer to home and sample what the UK has to offer.

Whatever your destination, some examples of gap year activities include conservation work, adventure travel programmes, summer schools and internships.

Explore some gap year ideas here (opens Prospects website in a new window).


What are the benefits of taking a gap year?

  • Develop your transferable skills - you'll learn to budget when planning a gap year, and you'll use your initiative when making all the preparations. If you're heading abroad for work experience, you'll also develop valuable communication skills.
  • Raise your cultural awareness - living and working alongside local people will allow you to appreciate other cultures and expand your global network of friends. Having an expanded list of contacts can also be useful when finding a job, as you never know who'll be in a position to offer help.
  • Increase your confidence and independence - having to converse and interact with the people you meet can help you to build relationships and become more self-assured. Arranging travel, finding accommodation and surviving on your own money are great ways to show your independence.
  • Learn a new craft - if there's something you've always wanted to try, your gap year is a great time to give it a go. Whether you fancy surfing, filmmaking, cookery or even the art of kung fu, this is your chance to broaden your horizons.
  • Gain work experience - most jobs expect you to have undertaken some form of work experience, and a gap year is a perfect opportunity to start. The more relevant the internship or work placement is to your course and future career, the better. For instance, if you want to be a teacher, seek out programmes that allow you to work with children and consider community work if you're looking to get into social care.
  • Save money for university - another advantage to spending at least part of your gap year working is to earn money that can be used to fund your life as a student. While you may not be able to command a huge wage, it can give you a taste of being self-sufficient. Some gap year programmes, such as those working at American summer camps, allow you to earn pocket money to put towards travelling the country once your planned activities have finished.
  • Improve your language skills - if your gap year involves living in a country where English isn't so widely spoken, you should aim to pick up some useful phrases and then add to them each day. Not only will this endear you to local people, it may also help you find work when you return home. Many organisations now trade globally and employing someone who can speak different languages would be a huge asset - discover the benefits of studying international business. You may also wish to consider teaching English abroad.
  • Gives you time to decide if university is right for you - should you be in two minds about devoting the next few years of your life to studying for an undergraduate degree, a gap year can give you the breathing space to consider your options. A break from study often helps to provide clarity and it can even open up new avenues for a future career.

To find out more about taking a gap year, visit the Prospects website.

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