A gap year is a planned 12 month break to either travel the world or earn money for studying. For most, it means taking a year out before going off to university, however, you could choose to take a gap year after completing your degree, or even whilst you are working if you have understanding employers!

In the past, gap years had a reputation as being for the privileged few who were perhaps trying to dodge or delay joining the workforce. These days, gap years are an opportunity to challenge yourself - to develop valuable and transferable skills such as budgeting and time-planning, to improve your confidence, independence and initiative and to gain an overall sense of personal achievement.

What type of gap year would suit you?


For those who want to get involved in a project to help a community. This could be a local voluntary position, or a project on the other side of the world. For example, you could volunteer your time at a local hospice where you make refreshments for patients and their families, help out at fund-raisers, or just provide company for lonely patients. Further afield, there are lots of opportunities to get involved in community projects in developing countries – this could involve helping to build a new school, installing wells or repairing homes damaged in natural disasters, or you might want to take part in a conservation scheme. What better way to learn new practical skills, improve your awareness of different cultures and give something back to the community.

Exploration and Discovery

For those with itchy feet! You’ve spent years in a classroom or at work and want to get out and explore the world before settling into the next stage of your life. With so many travel options, the world really is your oyster. You could stick with Europe and inter-rail around all the amazing cities just across the Channel, or you may want to explore further afield. South East Asia is becoming a popular destination, with many people choosing to visit previously inaccessible countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. More established choices include Australia, the USA and Peru. Some people prefer the traditional idea of back-packing their way around a country or region, staying in hostels or on camp-sites – others may prefer to work whilst they are travelling to help pay their way, perhaps renting a room. You could choose to go alone, with a group of friends, or perhaps join an organised tour. Wherever you decide to go, travelling really opens your mind to different ideas and cultures and allows you to make friends all around the world. You are certain to gain skills that will be of benefit to any future career and if nothing else you’ll have some amazing pictures to share and stories to tell. You might also be interested in our Travel and Tourism courses.


For those who have an eye on their finances. Taking on a paid role for a year before going on to university is a really good way of saving money to help fund your time as a student. You may want the money to put towards living costs or towards your course fees in order to reduce future debt. It will give you a taste of working life and of being self-sufficient. You could choose to work here in the UK, or work abroad which would have the added bonus (depending on where you choose to work) of helping you learn a new language. Alternatively, you may wish to take on an unpaid internship in a large company which will definitely open doors for you particularly if you are looking to work in a competitive field.

Do your research

If you do decide to take a gap year you will need to start planning as early as possible. There is a lot of information online to help you organise your itinerary and research placements or volunteering projects. If you are going overseas, check if you need visas and immunisations – it is also a good idea look at the Foreign Office website for current travel advice for the countries you are travelling to. You will need to arrange insurance, ensure your passport is in date and is valid for at least 6 months and make a list of all the items you need to buy.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to consider the disadvantages of any plans you are undertaking. Leaving your studies for a year may leave you feeling a little rusty when you come back to the classroom and you could lost your momentum somewhat. It won’t help that it will feel that many of your friends are a year ahead of you! If you leave for a gap year after completing your degree, you may worry about strong competition for jobs and missed employment opportunities.

Taking a gap year will certainly give you time to reflect and plan your future. You may decide that university is not for you and you prefer to go straight to work. Whether you pick study or employment, you can be sure whatever kind of gap year you choose will help you stand out and give you something a little different to put on your CV and application form.

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