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Written by Jenny McWhirter on 31 / 03 / 2016

Gap Year Advice

Thinking about taking a gap year? You're not alone. It's a common misconception that year out is little more than a expensive holiday with no real benefit.

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In fact, a gap year can be a great chance in an otherwise results-driven, academic culture to explore new countries, broaden your skill set and have experiences that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.

Academic Facts

‘Do I take a gap year or do I go straight to university?’ is a question that many school leavers ask themselves, and it can prove to be a bit of a dilemma, especially when there are concerns about forgetting everything you learned at school.

But the academic benefits are backed up by fact after figure:

“60% said a gap year helped them decide what subject to study at university"

In fact, there are ways to make your gap year relevant to your degree.

And if you aren’t like the 7% of UCAS applicants who chose to defer entry in order to take a year out in 2012, then just remember this:

"40% of students do not apply to university before embarking on their gap year"

This gives you the opportunity to ensure that you get the very most out of your year out and ensure that you have loads of great experiences under your belt which you can talk about in your application.

Universities approve of volunteer work, as it also demonstrates you’ve got courage, determination and a sense of adventure, as well as commitment and compassion.

Want a different volunteering experience? Why not spend 4 Weeks in Madagascar: Forest Conservation + Island Hopping + Teaching, where you can spend 4 weeks studying weird and wonderful wildlife in the beautiful surroundings of Madagascar.

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And if you’re still at the stage of dithering between going straight to university, or taking that year out…

"66% of students took their academic work more seriously after having a gap year"

Humans need change…

Nobody wants to live a dull, monotonous life. But sadly, many of us end up getting sucked in by our daily routine. Change is essential - variety makes us feel alive and engaged and is one of the six fundamental human needs per life coach extraordinaire Tony Robbins. It helps us grow and learn new things, enabling us to discover more about ourselves and our lives.

By giving their brain that well-needed change, it has been shown that 2.3% of gap year students scored better than those who went to university straight from school and are more likely to graduate with a First or Upper Second class honours degree – so you’ll benefit in the long term, too!

Personal Development

As Chilean psychologist Daniel Vera said in his 2012 TED talk, if you allow it to happen then 'the act of travelling can provide more lessons than you would ever expect'. Check out the full talk and a ton of other useful insights, below.

“80% of people thought that their gap year added to their employability”

Most “gappers” would agree that the experiences they face taking a year out not only look good on a CV, but they return home with a broadened outlook, new friends, and increased confidence.

To your potential future employer, (as I looked at earlier this week in How To Explain the Value of Your Gap Year) you have gained experiences such as planning your year out, working as part of team and making yourself understood in a foreign environment. These all showcase how you are adaptable, push yourself out of your comfort zone and deal with stressful situations in a mature way.

In fact, a study commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association has shown that travelling abroad can sharpen the mind, as well as actually improving your health.

“30% of students travelled alone”

According to a recent study conducted by Booking.com, more travellers are striking out on their own, and feel more fulfilled from a solo trip. The study found that women are now 51% more likely to be the master of their own itinerary than they were 5 years ago, while 23% of men think real adventure only comes from traveling alone.

I looked in depth at the benefits, and the Vital Dos and Don’ts of Travelling Solo last year, and I still stand by the view that venturing off on my own was the best decision of my life.

Money Stuff

The average gap year will cost £3000-£4000, which is why around 22% of students can not afford to take a year out and only 10% of students fully funded their own gap year. There are other options to make sure you can take that trip of a lifetime:

”20% of parents decide to help fund their child’s gap year”

British parents spend as much as £995 million a year helping to fund gap years, but most will want to know that this money will be spent wisely. Make sure you research and plan your gap year well, find worthwhile experiences to have while you are away, be that volunteering, immersing yourself in the culture, or perhaps learning a language.

However, not all parents can afford to help out on the money front, so you may need to consider raising the funds yourself...

80% of gap year students work in Britain at some point during their gap year

Most gap year programmes don’t last a whole year. This gives you time at the beginning to raise funds. You can then start open a gap bank account to raise interest, start budgeting, planning and making savings where possible. You could babysit, work in a bar, become events staff or even become a become a professional dog walker.

Alternatively, you can work while you are travelling:

Whether you want to get organised and apply for jobs beforehand or find a job when you get there there are so many different ways to make money on your travels. Take a look at my article about How To Find Jobs Overseas which is packed with tips on making sure you get the most out of working abroad.

Finally, make sure you take a look at my popular article How To Travel When You Have No Money to get you started.

Your Turn

Have you been travelling? Did you gain invaluable experiences? We’d love you to tell us about them and inspire our readers to take their first steps on foreign soil, so go ahead and share your stories in the comments box below!

Not sure if you should take a gap year? Don't panic!

Get In Contact

Check out our gap year programs

We have award winning 'planet saving' programs across Africa, Asia, South and Central America.

Reducing plastic in our oceans, protecting turtles and saving the rhino is just the tip of the melting iceberg.

All experiences include a mix of projects and adventures, travelling with a team and, of course, are risk assessed.

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Need inspiration and direction?

Get in contact with the gap year travel specialists.

Here at The Leap we can help both team traveller through our programmes and/or the backpacker.

Jot a message below or call us on +44 1672 519 9222

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