Who should take a gap year? The short answer to that is anybody – it provides students the opportunity to take time off and do something they’re passionate about; university graduates 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.
I firmly believe that EVERYONE should take a gap year at some point in their lives. But for some, it may be more necessary than others. If any of the below criteria apply to you, then you should seriously consider planning a gap year today.
I’m Not Ready for University Yet
You’re probably feeling mentally exhausted after spending so many late nights buried in books ahead of your exams, or sitting at your desk struggling to complete that dismal dissertation.
Well, that’s certainly how I felt towards the end of my final year at school. I knew I needed a break, as I was pretty burnt out due to the constant assessment, causing the thought of heading to university in just a few months to fill me with dread.
My choice to take a year off at that point is certainly not one that I regret. I returned feeling refreshed and far better prepared for university, not only because I’d stepped away from the academic world but also because I’d made my gap year relevant to my degree in French by working as an au pair in France.
Just be sure to use your time off productively, as that way your university will respect your decision to take a gap year and regard it as a worthwhile experience.
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."
Just what you want to hear!
I Didn’t Get the Grades I Was Hoping For
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 - 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 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? After all, you’ll have presumably worked doubly hard to achieve your grades the second time round. Take your mind off education and do something totally different, like visiting a country you’ve never been to 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.
I Want to Experience the Workplace Before Committing to a Degree
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 career path.
Personally, I had no idea (still don’t as a matter of fact). I enjoyed studying English and French at school, so I decided to do a degree in languages, but knew I’d have to get some practice in first – that’s why I chose to spend part of my gap year living and working in France.
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.
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.
I Feel I 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.
In the video above, 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 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 far and wide.
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 – I ended up taking two!
So grasp this fantastic opportunity to travel before you start working, as then you’ll have a mere four weeks a year to explore other countries, as opposed to fifteen months.
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.
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 kids in Cambodia, to community building on remote islands surrounding Madagascar – sound appealing?
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 recognise 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.
I found that travelling 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
If you have any questions, or would like further advice on taking a gap year, then don’t hesitate to contact our team over here.
on 10 / 06 / 2015