What is a Gap Year?
A gap year usually means taking a year out in between your studies, often at age 18 and after Level 3 qualifications such as A Levels, etc. There are lots of things you could do on a gap year like travelling, working or volunteering.
Some people apply and get a place at university and then ask for their place to be deferred so that they can have a gap year. If you have applied to University or College, you will need to request a deferred place when you apply.
A well-planned gap year is not just a break from study or getting into work. It can help you to:
- improve your CV with work experience
- have time to think about your long-term career plans
- learn something new to support your future goal
- travel and experience other cultures
- mature and focus – an advantage in career areas like healthcare and teaching
- earn money to support yourself in future study
There are companies which will help you plan your gap year but be warned it all costs money!
If you want the experience of a gap year to help you plan your future work or want to use it to show future employers evidence of your skills or independence, then try and make sure you balance the fun elements with developing useful skills for the future.
Also sell what you have learnt through the experience of a gap year in your applications for jobs and courses.
How to spend your gap year
What you can do will depend on your situation and your long-term goal. You might need to learn skills or get experience to get into a specific career. Depending on your circumstances you could:
- get a paid job
- do some work experience or an internship including virtual internships
- travel - you could organise it yourself or go through a gap year company
- do an online course, learn a language, develop study or work-related skills like IT, or business
How do I fund a Gap Year?
Unfortunately travelling isn’t free (if only!), and most of us have to raise the funds ourselves to afford a gap year.
However, travelling doesn't have to cost a fortune. With proper planning and budgeting, you can soon get the money together to afford your dream trip!
Plan before you go
Before you go on your gap year, calculate the costs of living in the destinations you'll be travelling to. There may be some costs you haven't factored into your budget, such as visas or vaccinations, so don't get caught out. Proper research is the best way to know how much you’ll need to realistically afford a gap year.
A good thing to do is to set up a bank account specifically for your travel money. This way you can track how much you have saved and try to leave it untouched until you set off. You should also be able to get better interest and fewer fees on this kind of account, which will help you afford a gap year more quickly!
Get a job
Money doesn't grow on trees, so you'll have to do the dirty work and get a job to afford your gap year. Find some part time work, or spend a few months working full-time as part of your gap year. There is no better incentive to get a job than the prospect of an amazing trip at the end of it!
If you're planning on doing charity work or something similar, you could raise some of the money through sponsorships; for example, finding groups who will pay for part of your gap year if you are prepared to do charity work. If you're spending your gap year volunteering abroad you should find out exactly what funds are available to you before you go. Many schools or colleges have a charitable trust and may be able to offer you a grant. Local organisations such as the Rotary Club have grants available for gap year travellers, so check all avenues.
Gap year gifts!
Birthday and Christmas presents can become a good source of income. Let your family know you're preparing for a gap year and they'll be delighted that they finally know what to get you - whether that's helping out with money or buying essential items for your kit!
In addition to this, you could run some fundraising events. Sell your old, unused possessions online, or get your friends to sponsor you to run a marathon. Events like those can often be a lot of fun, and raise a lot more money than you might expect. If you're going to be fundraising then make sure your fundraising ideas are as original and exciting as possible. Inform the local press about what you're doing; publicity will go a long way. Also be sure to get local businesses involved; they might be willing to give you money or offer you items to auction or give as prizes. Most banks have an allocated amount of money to give to charity, so try and make some contacts. Not only will fundraising get you a lot of money, it will also look great on your CV for any future jobs.
Get paid work abroad
If you are still having trouble raising money to afford your gap year trip, why not consider working in your destination country? There are a wide variety of paid positions available so check out our paid work opportunities - not only will you fund your travels but you will gain some great work experience too!
- Prospects has a list of gap year opportunities
- Travelling is a popular part of a gap year and there are companies such as STA travel that aim to help young people get the most out of their trip.
- National Careers Service Advice on Gap Years https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/careers-advice/advice-on-a-gap-year