A gap year can offer you great experiences and opportunities that you may not easily find the time for again as you settle into a career. Often taken after level 3 studies, such as A levels, a gap year can be taken before heading out to work, going to university, or seeking further education elsewhere. Aside from the experiences you may have, a gap year can also be a great time to pick up new skills that could improve your chances of impressing future employers. Ideally, a gap year should include career-enhancing and enjoyable elements in order to get the most from the time. However, a gap year isn’t ideal for everyone, so it si worth looking at the pros and cons before deciding if you should take a gap year.
Gap years come in all different shapes – from simply traveling overseas to teaching abroad, volunteering on a project, going out to work to get experience and save up some money (for example for university), or even getting some extra study or training done. What you decide to do will certainly impact your decision making, as will your career goals for the future. However, there are a few fairly hard-and-fast rules when it comes to gap years.
Starting with the positives:
- Take some time out
We can’t underestimate the importance of just taking a break. You may feel that you need some time off from studying to try something else and just let your brain cool down a little!
- Get some career experience
You might be able to find work somewhere related to your upcoming university course or career goals. Getting some work experience is always worthwhile for use on your C.V. later (see here for some advice on what NOT to put on your C.V.!). Some people even use the time to test out their chosen career before fully committing to it, such as by taking an internship or volunteering.
- Broaden your horizons
It is true that traveling to see other countries and cultures will change your view of the world, so the common gap year experience of traveling is well worth considering. This may be to work as a volunteer or to teach English, or it may simply be for the experiences of travel itself.
- Make some money
Taking a year out and doing some paid work before university, for example, is not such a bad idea either. Getting some money saved up as well as gaining some real-world work experience is far from a waste of your time.
- Gain some independence
Heading out on a gap year will certainly help your independence and maturity increase as you will find yourself without all of the usual home comforts and immediate support networks you may have relied upon.
- Gain new skills
Whether you go out to work or head off around the world, there is every chance you will gain some new skills that could help your career or studies later. These may be anything from the most practical skills to ‘softer’ skills like learning how to deal with different types of people or stay calm in stressful situations.
While gap years offer plenty of positives, they are not for everyone – so here are a few things to consider:
- You may find it hard to return to your studies
Spending time away from your regular study routine may make it tough for you to get back into the swing of things should you decide to take the year out before more study, such as at university.
- It can be expensive
If you plan to spend the time traveling it can soon become very expensive. A lot of people decide to split their gap year in half, spending some of it working to save some money and the other half actually heading out once they have some cash saved up.
- You may feel left behind
You may feel a little left behind and out of touch if your friends are all heading out to work or university.
- Wasting your year out will reflect badly on you
Employers will wonder what you did during your gap year – and may not be impressed to hear that you spent it playing X Box! Make sure you don’t waste your time doing nothing
We have more help to help you to decide whether this is the right time for a Gap Year, or you can simply search through the gap year opportunities to get some ideas and see if any take your fancy!