Why take a gap year?
Taking a year out between leaving school or college and starting university can be a really beneficial experience providing the time is used constructively. It’s an opportunity to take a break from full time study, earn some money, have some adventures and new experiences, and develop as an individual. If you spend time away from home during this time a knock on effect is likely to be an increase in independence, motivation and confidence which will help you settle in to university more easily. Your experiences could also enhance your CV. In general universities are supportive of applicants taking a gap year because of the positive benefits you will gain.
How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting gap years in 2020/21?
Gap year plans are likely to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Travel abroad may not be feasible if travel restrictions are extended for months ahead. Review your plans when guidance from the UK government and other countries is updated and be prepared to change your plans if appropriate. If you are planning to travel ensure you have travel insurance in place and be aware of any claim restrictions. If travel at home is less restricted than travel abroad you could consider spending part of your gap year in another region of your home country.
What are your gap year options?
There are various options to consider and a well structured gap year may include several of these elements. Here are the main ones;
To earn money towards the costs of travel or university and/or to gain some career relevant experience. The Year in Industry scheme is worth investigating if you are interested in science, engineering or business. For gap year employment opportunities in the UK and round the world take a look at Gap Work .
Workplace opportunities may be limited because of the coronavirus but virtual internships, in diverse areas such as software engineering, fashion and sports management, are growing in popularity. Search for virtual internships at GoAbroad.
In the UK there are numerous options, including community work, practical activities like archaeological digs or nature conservation as well as fundraising or campaigning for good causes. This could be an opportunity to do something related to your degree course or career plans. Search Do IT or Volunteering Matters for UK volunteering opportunities. During the coronavirus pandemic you may wish to give something back to your community; you could explore volunteering for your local NHS Trust or a mental health organisation. For overseas placements the Year Out Group is a good place to start looking although opportunities may be limited by the pandemic; all their member organisations offer well-structured programmes and adhere to the Group’s Code of Practice.
Go independently or look for an adventure or travel programme offered by a gap organisation such as Real Gap . Either way, research and preparation is vital to ensure you have a safe trip. Check out government advice on travel abroad at the planning stage of your trip.
Learn a new skill
Take a short course in art, culture, music, photography, language, IT or sports instruction. Some gap providers offer skills development, for example, courses in cookery, languages or sports instructor qualifications. FutureLearn offers a wide range of free online courses from 1 - 3+ months long where you can study at your own pace. Duolingo offers free language learning in 36 languages or you can pay for online language tuition with Italki . Many top universities around the world offer free online short courses. Check their websites to find out what’s on offer.
Consider what you want to do with your year out carefully. You could check social media forums for advice and insights from those who have experienced the type of gap year you are interested in. If you’re having doubts do talk through your plans with your parents, a teacher or careers adviser.