Saturday, 20th April 2019


‘Gap year’ is a common term used in the UK given to a year out of education, either between school and university or education and work, during which young people take a break and travel (often as far away as they can get).

Gap years have become an increasingly popular option for young people, a rite of passage if you will, especially in a time when people are uncertain about their futures. Generally, gap year students either want to take a long break after exams before starting university, or they want to explore a bit of the world, maybe do some work and take some time to consider career options before settling into a job.

Who can take a year out?

Whilst the stereotypical gap year is seen as a premise only for the wealthy between school and university, the reality now is that anyone can take a year out, for any reason and at any time.

When is the best time?

A year out can be taken either between leaving school and starting university, or after university and before work. They rarely last an entire year; many people spend the first half of the year earning money and then travel for anything from two to six months in the remaining half. It is also not uncommon for people to embark on a gap year later on in life, after a few years in employment (usually then known as a sabbatical or career break).

What to do on a year out

Gap years are traditionally about travelling. But a year out can be completely tailor-made and independent, or it can be structured by a commercial gap year scheme.

Depending on the length of time that you have and what you want to achieve, a gap year can be focused on travelling around one country or continent, or can include a combination. Typical destinations for British students include:

  • Southeast Asia
  • India and Nepal
  • Australia and New Zealand
  • Africa
  • Central and South America
  • Europe

Gap year activities can vary depending on the objective is relaxation, leisure, work, or gaining new experiences and skills.

Typical activities other than sightseeing include:

The benefits

There are a number of benefits of taking a year out. It is a great opportunity to take a break from education and work, in order to gain a little perspective about your future.

If you use the time well, gap years can provide you with that extra time to decide what you want to do, whilst exploring the world while you can, and gaining new experiences and skills along the way.

If planned well, successful gap years can show employers proof of good organisation and independence.

Also, if you happened to use the time to learn a language or to volunteer, this also looks attractive to employers.

Useful advice for young people

Other types of year out opportunities

Nowadays the term gap year has been stretched out to cover many sorts of year out. Some people choose to take a year out of education after school but not to go travelling. Taking a year out to work and save money for further education or training is quite common. Students who didn't get the grades they wanted in their A-levels may reapply and take them again. Others may choose to take a year out to get some work experience, either through internships or placements, to help them decide what to do afterwards.

Whilst gap years might sound like a glorified holiday and an excuse to lie on a beach for six months, if you really want to give yourself a better shot at employment on your return, you should try and fill your time, partially at least, with something worthwhile:

  • Volunteer - Volunteering is a great way to give back to the local community, and show employers that you are proactive and care about something. Work can range from teaching English in schools to building shelters and water pumps. Do your research, and volunteer in something that matters to you.
  • Get work experience. - Working abroad is a sign of initiative. It demonstrates that you are capable of being financially independent, and can help your travel budget go that little bit further.
  • Gain some skills. - Whether it’s learning a language or a specific type of martial arts, try to come home with a new skill or experience. If anything, it will add a little colour to your CV.

Useful links

Here are some useful websites that give loads of advice and information for young people: