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Who Should Take A Gap Year? Top 5 Reasons to Take a Gap Year

Written by Alice McLeod on 17 / 05 / 2023

Gap Year Advice

Who should take a gap year? The short answer is anybody – it provides students the opportunity to take time off and do something they’re passionate about; university students can use it to complement their studies with out-of-the-classroom experiences; those already in a particular industry can take a career break to spend a year away from the office.

We firmly believe that EVERYONE should take a gap year at some point in their lives. But for some, it may be a better fit than others. If any of the below criteria apply to you, then you should seriously consider planning a gap year today.

1. Not Ready for University Yet

You’re probably feeling mentally exhausted after spending so many late nights buried in books ahead of your exams, trust us, we remember it well. You might be feeling like you desperately need a break, with the thought of launching straight into your degree in a couple of months filling you with dread. If this sounds like you then you should definitely consider a gap year. Not only will it lead you to starting university feeling refreshed and ready, but Tony Higgins, former chief executive of UCAS, once said "Students who take a well-planned structured year out are more likely to be satisfied with, and complete, their chosen course. The benefits of a well-structured year out are now widely recognised by universities and colleges and cannot fail to stand you in good stead in later life."

Use the time productively (ie don't sit on the sofa for over a year twiddling your thumbs), and your uni will regard your gap year as a worthwhile experience and you'll have got to spend over a year with your nose out of textbooks. Win-win.

2. Didn’t Get the Grades

Did you miss your grades for university? Or perhaps you’re in the thick of it with exams right now and you’re nervous about coming up short when the results come in?

Well not to worry. 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 and reapply.

Once you’ve got all that out of the way, why not give yourself a pat on the back and treat yourself to some time off? Take your mind off education and do something totally different, like visiting a country you’ve never been to, volunteering your time and manpower to a worthy cause, or doing a course in something that interests you which could lead to paid work like cooking, ski instructing, or sailing.

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.

3. Want to Experience the Workplace Before Committing to a Degree

Perhaps you have a vague idea of what you’d like to do, but want to get a taster of it before you actually commit to anything. Or maybe you have no idea at all (don't worry, you're not alone!) and want to try and few different things before you commit to a degree.

If this is the case for you, I’d strongly recommend getting some work experience or applying to do an internship - namely an internship abroad - as that way you can combine work with travel and make the experience all the more enjoyable. Even better if you can find work/volunteering/travel experience that's within the sector you're interested in studying at university; for example, if you're wanting to study Spanish at uni then doing something like our Peru programme where you live with a local family and are totally immersed in their culture and way of life would be amazing first-hand experience and practice.

4. Feel the Need to Gain Life Experience

Taking a year off will enable you to gain experience in ways that wouldn’t be able to should you choose to go straight to university from school. Not only can you get experience in your chosen field, as mentioned above, but you’ll also develop what are known as ‘soft skills’, i.e. skills that cannot be taught in a classroom, which include communication, teamwork, interpersonal skills and leadership.

Adapting to a new culture or taking up a new challenge on your gap year will also increase your confidence no end, making those first days at university or the workplace a little less daunting. The things you can do on your gap year are truly limitless, you can do everything from a ski season to marine conservation in Kenya. Read our guide to choosing a gap year programme here. This is the perfect time to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try something totally new - who knows, you might fall in love with it.

5. Want to Travel

Don’t we all. When there are so many marvellous sights to see, people to meet, dishes to sample, and fun things to do, who wouldn’t want to travel around the world?

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 exciting.

Remember, it’s much harder to take a gap year after university, as you’ll be facing pressure to begin the job hunt. Though that’s not to say it isn’t possible – but just be aware your plans to have a post-uni gap year will probably be derailed by the dreaded job hunt.

So grasp this fantastic opportunity to travel before you start working, as once you start a career you’ll have a mere four weeks a year to explore other countries, as opposed to fifteen months. Whilst it may seem overwhelming to have so much time and so many options, that's where we come in, and we can help you with your gap year planning and help you script the perfect itinerary.

The Leap offers a range of volunteering opportunities, from teaching kids in Cambodia, to community volunteering in Peru – and we're confident we have something to suit everyone's gap year plans.

FAQs about Gap Year Travel

  • I really have no idea what to do on my gap year, what should I do? Give us a call here in the office and one of us can chat to you about your options and what would work best for you. We're great at working out what the best experience for you would be, whether that's going as an independent traveller or joining a team programme.
  • None of my friends are taking a gap year, should I still take one? Absolutely! Not only are they going to be insanely envious of what you get up to, but gap years are the perfect opportunity to meet new people and make new friends too.
  • I really want to do a gap year, but have no idea how to fund it, any ideas? No many people are lucky enough to have a big enough chunk of change lying around for them to go off travelling without getting a job first. Read our blog here for job ideas to get the ball rolling. You could also consider getting a job whilst abroad, or finding a scheme where you do a few hours of work a day in return for food and board. Lots of options out there!
  • I've never travelled on my own before and I'm nervous, what do you suggest? Definitely consider joining a team programme first as you'll gain loads of confidence travelling in a group of people in the same boat as you. After the structure of a team programme you'll have the confidence and knowledge to add on a phase of independent travel afterwards. But don't worry, lots of people are nervous at the thought of setting off alone, take a look at our blog about solo vs group travel here to see which will suit you better.
  • Will a gap year look good on my CV? Yes! But only if you do something constructive. Even just getting a job and saving up in order to fund your travels shows responsibility and determination. If you manage to squeeze in some volunteering, or some sort of cultural exchange even better.

Over to You

If you have any questions, or would like further advice on taking a gap year, then don’t hesitate to contact our team.

Check out our gap year programmes

We have award winning programmes across Africa, Asia, South, and Central America.

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

All experiences include a mix of projects and adventures, travelling with a team of like-minded gappers, and 24/7 support from our UK team.

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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.

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