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Should You Be Taking A Gap Year?

Written by Jenny McWhirter on 09 / 06 / 2016

Gap Year Advice

There are a million and one reasons why students take a gap year – trust us, we're pros on the subject and I can send you a very long list to back up "the why", but to keep things simple I have listed below the top 7 reasons we hear year on year. My message and purpose of this blog is very simple: if any of the following resonates with you, then you have to stop now and change your plans.

Opportunities to take a gap year do not come round that often and so, when a perfect bite size moment in time comes around – grab it with both hands, and legs if you can bear, don’t let a gap year pass you by – that would be a great shame and we don’t advocate regrets.

I Can’t Face Any More Studying

Right now you are probably in the thick of exam fever and are feeling mentally exhausted after spending so many late nights buried in books or sitting at your desk struggling to complete the dissertation.

If the thought of more studying is giving you that feeling of ‘dread’, then maybe you need to stand back for a minute and think hold on - why am I doing this? is there any need to rush straight into more studying? why am I not taking a gap year? who is stopping me? If it’s the course or uni, then we can’t help – but if there’s a crack in the plan, well it would be silly not to review. After all there is never a better time and I can tell you now opportunities to take a gap year doesn’t come around again. After uni you’ll be bored with being poor and the pressure from family to get on the job band wagon will be overwhelming.

Just be sure to use your time off productively.

I Didn’t Get The Grades

Might be a bit early to be thinking this and let’s remain positive – you will get those grades.

But just in case the 18 August doesn’t deliver – don’t panic - a gap year makes the perfect back-up plan. In fact, less-than-perfect exam results are the perfect excuse to take a gap year, as this will give you the chance to retake your exams, reapply and treat yourself to some time off. After all, you’ll have presumably worked doubly hard to achieve your grades the second time round, won’t you?

Also, bear in mind that if you exceed your predicted grades, you can also use your gap year to apply for a better course or institution, should you so wish – just putting it out there.

I Want to Help Those in Underdeveloped Countries

Most of us acknowledge and appreciate the fact that we’re extremely fortunate to come from prosperous countries, where everyday essentials are taken for granted. Imagine struggling to feed yourself and your family, walking miles to get to school, and having to sit on a crowded floor in a hot, sweaty classroom with no air conditioning...not nice.

If you want to use your gap year to help people in this position, then we salute you. The Leap offers a range of volunteering opportunities, from teaching street children in Cambodia, to helping remote tribes remain self sufficient in Ecuador – take a peak.

I Can't Think Of A Career

I envy those people who seem to know exactly what career path they want to take and which course is required to embark on that chosen path. All seems very straightforward, but for most of us this is not the case – in fact I’m still wandering.

Taking a gap year is the perfect time to try out different work experience options. For example, if you were thinking of becoming a teacher – get out there in the classroom, see what age group you want to teach and what you want to teach…this will help focus the course you need to nail to become ‘teacher of the year’.

Like wise – with just professions in mind, from medical to graphic design – work experience will quickly reveal if this really has your name on it. Internship abroad are a good place to start, as they can combine work with travel to make the experience tip top.

I Need To Boost My Life Skills?

When I say life skills – I’m talking about your level of confidence, organization, leadership, determination and commitment. They, potential employers and universities, judge yours firstly off your application form and if you're lucky via an interview. So put simply – how can you illustrate you are a team player, motivated, or even fun to be with? A gap year will provide you with 101 ways to show case your best life skills.

As ski season, for example – great fun but such hard work. If I read you had been a chalet girl/boy and lasted the entire season – I would think – wow – this person has energy, is great with people, organized and a grafter – get them in for an interview. While we are on the notion of ski seasons – 2 great places to start: learn to be an instructor or become a chalet girl/boy.

In the video above, the motivational speaker Mark J. Lindquist talks about how taking a year off can help young people grow a passion for life that has the potential to change the world around them. What do you think?

I Dream of Traveling to Far Flung Places

Don’t we all! When there are so many marvelous sights to see, people to meet, dishes to sample and fun things to do, who wouldn’t want to travel around the world to places that need time to get there and time to explore. Take Madagascar for example – it takes 3 planes and one boat just to get there. Not something that can be achieved on a 2-week summer holiday.

Your gap year is the perfect opportunity to do just this, as you have ample time to save money, make all the necessary preparations and hop on that plane to somewhere far and wide. So grasp this fantastic opportunity while you have fifteen beautiful months to fill.

Want a different volunteering experience? Why not spend4 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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I’m Not Sure What To Do With My Life

You’re not alone! Whereas many people seem sorted in this respect, others struggle to recognize what they want out of life. By taking a gap year, you’re taking yourself out of your usual environment, which will enable you to get some perspective and learn more about yourself, as cheesy as that may sounds.

I found that traveling alone, daunting as it was at first, gave me the time to reflect on what I liked and disliked, what was important to me and what simply didn’t matter as much as I once thought it did. For a bit of inspiration, check out these first-hand accounts of the gap year experience on The Year Out Group’s website.

Over To You

So, we might have identified that you need to stop in your tracks and re think. But not sure where to start your planning of your gap year? Don't panic! Download The Gap Adventure Blueprint Our comprehensive gap year advice guide, which contains several chapters on preparing for your adventure.

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

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Yes please, let's keep life simple.