Mind the Gap (Year)
If you’re considering taking a gap year, you’re not alone. Some 230,000 18-25-year-olds take a gap year annually, and the trend is only growing.
The gap year has gone from a rare occurrence to a popular choice for university students. The increasing number of students deciding to go on a gap year before university could be based on various things, from increasing tuition fees to the fact that taking a break after school has become more widely known and accepted. Also, young people today are more interested in experiences, with a recent survey showing that 72% of young people prefer to spend money on experiences than material things.
A common misconception is that taking a gap year is nothing more than a waste of time and money. This cannot be further from the truth, as taking a gap year can help you explore new countries, broaden your skills, and experience new cultures that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.
With the latest GSE Advanced results being published on the 16 August 2018, many students may be planning their futures and considering taking a gap year.
What is a Gap Year?
Traditionally, a gap year is taken between high school and university where so-called ‘gappers’ take time out to combine activities like backpacking and adventure travel with volunteering, work or internships.
Although gap years were originally dedicated to students taking a break before uni, the market has shifted as university graduates, career-breakers and even retirees are all taking time out. That said, the nature of gap year experiences has also changed, with more focus being placed on career development, academics and personal goals.
If you’re considering taking a gap year but find it daunting, or if you’re struggling to get your parents on board, here are some gap year stats worth checking out:
- 60% of students said a gap year helped them decide what subject to study at uni
- 40% of students do not apply to uni before taking a gap year
- 90% of gap year students enter uni on their return
- 66% of students took their academic work more seriously after having a gap year
- 80% of students felt that their gap year added to their employability
- 80% of gappers work in Britain at some point during their gap year
Mind the Gap
While many students may be considering taking a gap year, others could be wondering when the right time is to take a gap year – before uni, after uni, or before joining the workforce. Of course, the answer to that depends on individual circumstances. There could be numerous reasons why students do not take a gap year, which could include affordability and the fear of not being accepted at your chosen university.
Pre-uni Gap Year
Many institutions encourage taking a gap year before higher education as it is said to help students mature and give them a sense of duty and responsibility.
- Entering uni with added maturity and responsibility
- Allows breathing space before hitting the books for the next few years
- Many organisations cater to students taking gap years and can include courses, projects, volunteering and internships
- Working during your gap year could give you a chance to save money
- Some students may struggle to get back into studying mode once they return
- High school graduates may be too young and immature to really value the experience and embrace the challenge
Some unis may not allow you to defer a year
Taking a Year Out of University
This is not usually recommended by experts, although there are some pros to taking some time out of your degree.
- The break can provide plenty of opportunities to work, volunteer and travel abroad
- Study abroad options will enhance your studies, introduce you to a new culture and lifestyle, and sharpen up your CV
- Can be distracting
- Taking a year out during your degree will mean your friends and peers would have moved on
- Could be viewed as non-committal to some employers
Post-uni Gap Year
After a few years of studying, taking a year off can be the best idea, and you have so many options to choose from before settling into a long-term career.
- Taking time to enjoy a big adventure or experience before settling into the workforce
- A great time to travel with friends before going your separate ways
- You will have a better understanding of who you are and what your preferences and limitations are
- A nice boost to your CV
- Funds could be low, and you may have to get a part-time job to make ends meet
If your parents have been funding your studies, they may want you to start making your own money immediately instead of paying for a ‘long holiday’.
Gap Year and Uni Applications
The Higher Education Liaison Officers Association, made up of admissions tutors and university staff, shared some tips for students contemplating a gap year.
If you are thinking about taking a gap year before starting uni, you have three options:
- You can apply at the same time as everybody else, but for a ‘deferred entry’, which means consideration for the following year.
- Once you have received your results, you can apply in the following application cycle. This may put you in a stronger position to apply for a competitive subject based on your actual results and not on your predicted grades. This will also give you extra time to decide what course to take, save money and plan your student accommodation.
- You can request deferment after you have received your offer.
However you choose to do it, most universities will be interested to hear about your intended plans and what you hope to gain from your gap year experience, whether it is earning money, travelling, giving back to the community or gaining knowledge of different cultures. Most universities see the value of taking a gap year and welcome the maturity and motivation that gappers can bring to their studies.
Andrew Carter, head of Recruitment and Outreach at the University of the West of England, says, “As well as subject-specific experience, the life skills students can gain from a gap year are hugely valuable such as experience living away from home, greater cultural awareness, and better communication skills.”
That said, universities will often have their own pointers on applications for deferred entry, either in their prospectus or online, so be sure to check that out before applying.
Making Your Gap Year Count
Taking a gap year is an opportunity to experience the world and learn some life-long lessons. Here are some do’s and don’ts during your gap year to help make the most of your experience.
Do gain valuable and relevant experiences – Volunteering will definitely boost your application, while this type of experience can also benefit medicine and veterinary courses.
Do gain and improve your skills – In order to fully prepare for your studies, it is a good idea to participate in activities that improve and maintain your skills.
Do earn some money – Take your gap year as an opportunity to earn and save some money as this reflects well on you, especially on your application.
Do discover yourself – Use this break away from the classroom to travel, gain experience and learn more about the world.
Don’t waste the opportunity – However you choose to spend your gap year, make sure it is constructive and valuable. Make sure to plan your time effectively and do your research well in advance.
Ultimately, choosing to take a gap year is a rewarding experience, and if done right, will boost your university application and will mentally and financially prepare you for the next few years of studying. It can also be beneficial once you start looking for jobs, as employers are quick to see the positive in taking time out to work or travel. Enter your gap year with a clear plan and an open mind and it can be a positive, life-changing experience.
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