Whether it’s to take a break from studies, spend some time volunteering, gain real-world work experience or travel the world before diving into the throws of university life – taking a gap year for whatever reason has the potential to be tremendously beneficial to your personal growth and to better prepare you for life at university.
Alas, there are pros and cons to consider with everything, and gap years are certainly no exception. To shine some light on the matter, we’re detailing some of the most important positives and negatives that come with taking a gap year, to help you make a more informed decision on whether taking time away from your studies is the right choice for you.
After weighing up these pros and cons, in the light of Covid 19 you might decide a gap year in the UK may be the answer to your plans. Read on to discover useful gap year ideas and direct resources you can use to inspire your year’s adventure in the UK or further afield and seek further advice.
PRO: It gives you time to pursue other passions.
Taking a year-long break from your studies gives you the chance to reflect on what you really love to do. You could spend your time pursuing hobbies and interests that are often neglected in favour of studying – as a result, you might even discover that you want to go down a totally different path.
CON: You risk losing your academic momentum.
The best case scenario for taking a year-long break from your studies is returning to them feeling refreshed and motivated. The worst-case scenario is that you lose academic momentum completely. The last thing you want is for your transition back into your studies to be a difficult one – so you really should consider whether taking such a long break is something that will work for you personally.
PRO: It gives you the opportunity to work and get money behind you.
University life is an undeniably expensive one, there’s no denying it. Therefore, there’s certainly no shame in spending your gap year working to gather funds that can help with your living costs whilst at university. It can help you to feel much more confident about going off to live independently for the very first time, taking a huge financial pressure off your shoulders.
CON: You risk wasting a lot of valuable time.
When you decide to take a year out, it’s hugely important to have a clear plan mapped out. Otherwise, you could end up wasting a lot of valuable time. The last thing you want is to look back on the year and realise the most productive thing you’ve done in a day is binge-watch an entire series on Netflix – it’s never, ever going to look good on your CV.
PRO: It could look impressive on your CV.
Of course, if you do follow a concrete plan and spend your year out the right way, it could look pretty snazzy on your CV and hugely impress future employers. If you spend it working, gaining experience, or even volunteering, it can provide you with valuable new skills that any employer would be impressed by. Similarly, if you spend it travelling, it could give you a wealth of cultural awareness and a profound ability to live and work independently.
CON: It can be very expensive.
If you’re planning to travel during your gap year, depending on your destination and the duration of your trip, the likelihood is that costs will quickly mount up. Without the proper planning and organisation, a gap year abroad has the potential to take a huge financial toll on you. If you’re in any way concerned about funds, you need to ask yourself whether it will be a wise investment for you.
PRO: It can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Sadly, once you become a fully-fledged working adult, holidays are much harder to come by. Taking a gap year gives you the opportunity to make the most of your time away from the realities of life. Especially if you spend it travelling – getting the chance to travel so extensively for such a long period of time will be much harder to come by in the future.
CON: You will be a year behind.
For many people, this can be a particularly tough negative. You’ll need to consider the fact that many of your close friends will already be well settled into university life by the time you get there. As well, taking a year out can add an extended period of time to an already potentially lengthy educational process, which could result in you missing out on an early start in your career.
PRO: The life experience can make you better prepared for university.
Truth be told, a gap year has the potential to teach you much more valuable life lessons than sitting in a classroom ever could. This is especially the case if you decide to spend your year travelling, where you will undoubtedly gain the abilities to live and work independently, which will in turn better prepare you for independent study and living whilst at university.
CON: It’s a risk.
Like most things in life, taking a gap year is a risk for many reasons. You could risk all of the above cons and so much more, but ultimately, it’s down to you. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that taking a gap year and particularly spending time travelling abroad will be life-changing.
A gap year in the UK – ideas and resources
There’s more to the United Kingdom than local pubs, shopping centres and bad weather!
Did you know there are 250 iconic landmarks full of rich history, 166,000 charities in need of support and so many more ventures you can incorporate into your gap year in the UK?
When planning your gap year, there are two ways you can go about it: Organise it yourself or look for companies that will organise it for you.
With a wide range of gap year and volunteering schemes available, it’s important to check the legitimacy of each agency to ensure they are financially viable, are an established organisation and are reputable.
Organisations offering UK Gap years:
- Volunteering England
- Volunteer Scotland
- Volunteering Wales
- Volunteer Now – Northern Ireland
- Youth social action volunteering – #iwill
- International Citizen Service (ICS)
What is available?
Take time to research the range of gap year ideas, and volunteer and gap year schemes available. If you are going with an agency, ensure they are legitimate, financially viable and a reputable organisation. Consider others’ experiences, and research reviews, articles and forums to gain further insight.
Or you might want to organise a Gap Year yourself. It will take a bit more planning and organisation, so make sure to carry out all the fundamental research into the costs as well as safety advice, what insurance cover you will need to consider and additional checks.
Gap Year Ideas: Need some inspiration?
- Volunteering – A great way to help and inspire the wider community. You can volunteer with a charity or community group, help out your local area or assist with the elderly.
- Travel – Planning your travels around the UK is a sure way to enjoy your gap year. Don’t let the rainy weather stop you from travelling to this beautiful country! Taking a Gap year in the UK could lead you from the Scilly Isles to the Cotswolds. Train fares don’t have to burn a hole in your pockets. Consider a yearly railcard and get 1/3 off your rail travel, special offers and rewards from partners.
- Paid employment – Earning money will help you fund your gap year ventures. Consider agency work, a paid corporate internship or summer placement.
- Work experience – if you want to gain experience in a particular field, work experience may be for you. Although sometimes unpaid, work experience can be a great stepping stone into your career.
- Part-time courses – Why not try a course in something you never considered before? TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is a popular course native English-speaking people can embark on where they teach English to people who do not speak it as their first language (Psst! We have a 10% off unique discount code for all accredited courses: 47202F4A)
- Maybe a new language, trying a new sport or even something practical like cookery, mechanics or beauty.
Gap Year Advice
What do you want to achieve from a gap year?
Be sure to set some goals before you embark on your Gap Year. Whether that’s gaining new experiences, travelling across different regions, picking up new skills or simply considering your future ventures. Balance your time between adventure and productivity to ensure you’ll be on the right path.
How much money will you need?
You’ll need to fund your year’s expenses either through external financial help or paid work. Set yourself a budget and separate your finances by setting up a digital bank account to see exactly what you are saving and what your outgoings are. Budget sheets are also a great tool to consider your outgoings against your income. Costs will vary depending on accommodation, region and travel so planning at this stage is key!