Coming out of Sixth Form College only 18 years old and not knowing what you want to do is perfectly normal and happens to plenty of people. A gap year can be used to decide what to do with your future or it can be a time to take a break from study and gain life experience, it is entirely down to you.
In this article I will be talking you through the multiple options of what you can do in a gap year and if it is the right choice for you, I hope this article helps you in making this difficult decision and gives you a good idea of how to make the most of a gap year if you do choose to do one.
A gap year is a good idea for those of you who are unsure about university or your future. It is a chance to earn money and/or experience in the workplace or in life in general. A gap year will give you independence and the opportunity to learn new skills and give you more time to work out what you want to do in the future.
What is a Gap Year?
A ‘gap year’ (also known as a ‘sabbatical year’) is a period of time taken out by students, usually after leaving college and before going into university, it is normally a year but the length of a ‘gap year’ can vary depending on the person and what they want to achieve from their time out of study.
After years of studying and slogging through assignments and tests, you feel very ready to take a well-deserved break from all that stress and trauma. College can be a stressful environment for students especially those students that study a subject that does not interest them or meet their needs.
Sometimes, the summer period simply does not last long enough. In this case a ‘gap year’ is an option that is available to you that offers more time and even new opportunities. However, a ‘gap year’ could also slow your career down and possibly cause you some problems, those of which I will discuss a bit later on.
During a ‘gap year’ most students either go travelling or get a job and start earning but there are so many more things that you can do which I will also share with you.
A gap year can be very beneficial in terms of gaining life experience and learning new skills but you have to consider a range of different aspects before deciding whether a gap year is the right choice for you.
Although ‘gap years’ are usually associated with students, they have become more common and can be taken by anyone at anytime.
Should You Take a Gap Year After University?
After years of study, a gap year can seem well deserved but you need to make sure it is the right decision and you have a well thought out plan for your year out from study.
I would say that the idea of taking a gap year after university depends on the career path you are pursuing, for example, if the industry you hope to work in is very competitive then it may not be the best idea.
This is because as soon as you take a year out you will be at a disadvantage when applying for the job you want after your gap year compared to other applicants that have come straight out of university (your knowledge isn’t as up to date as it could be).
On the other hand, if you take a gap year and do something that is relevant to your career then it might actually give you the advantage when you do go to work, this is because you will have gained the experience in the industry that the employers are looking for and have a better chance of getting your desired job.
However, a gap year after university could be a better idea for someone who is undecided on their future and what career path they hope to pursue. It can give you the time to decide what you want to do and also to find something that you enjoy doing.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Taking a Gap Year
|Advantages||It improves your confidence and independence – having to interact with new people and arrange plans.
It gives you the opportunity to develop your transferable skills, such as managing money (learning how to budget) and learn how to take initiative.
Accelerated maturity – most students know how to study and learn but they lack important life experience. ‘Gap year’ students have had more chances to interact with others, take responsibilities and become more independent.
Improve career opportunities – gap year students stand out from other candidates as they have more life experiences and skills which can be used on the job. Gap year students that learnt a new language increase their chance to work in other countries.
Gain new perspective – Gap year students have been challenged to leave their comfort zones and try new things. Students that spend their year out living and working in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people will broaden their understanding of life and its challenges.
|Disadvantages||It may damage your chances of a job if you wasted time on your gap year.
After taking a year out of education/work you are likely to be used to a very flexible routine so it may be harder to finish your gap year and go into a strict routine of work or study.
What Should You Do in Your Gap Year?
It is important for anyone that has decided to take a gap year to have a plan in place for their year out so that they don’t spend a year just sat at home watching TV and wasting time. There are endless options for what you can do in a gap year, here are just a few ideas that are worth considering:
- Doing a course
- Getting a job
- Learn a new skill
- Start a business
- Use the time to decide on your future
- Gain Work Experience/ internships
Throughout the next part of the article, we will analyse each one of these options.
This is perhaps one of the most exciting options for anyone considering a gap year, you would get to see lots of exciting places and meet lots of interesting people. However, travelling can be very expensive and usually has no specific purpose other than to have a good time.
So, if you have plans to have a successful career in the future then travelling is likely to just be an unnecessary distraction for you and it might be best to continue studying at university or go straight into work to avoid wasting time and money.
Despite this, travelling can be a good rest from years of study as long as there is a secure plan set in place for when you return so that you don’t waste any time before starting a career or whatever else you have planned.
Doing an educational course in your gap year is a really useful thing to do as you would be gaining a new skill or trade that will improve your employability, such as a language or perhaps something that relates to the career path you hope to pursue.
If you are an English student you might be able to find a free vocational course in England where you may learn a new skill/trade, however, this is dependent on the course you want to do and your age.
If you are able, I would advise trying to find a course that provides the opportunity to get some sort of qualification so that there is proof of your efforts to learn a new skill, this will make it easier to prove to employers that you had relevant experience.
One thing you will have to bear in mind when looking at doing an educational course in your ‘gap year’ is that there are a lot of courses that cost a lot of money, so it might not be possible for you to do. It is a good idea to research beforehand (during college) what kind of courses are available and what the requirements are for those courses.
Another advantage of taking a gap year is that it can be used for work and is a sensible idea to raise money for future endeavours such as university or maybe even a new business venture.
Working in the ‘outside world’ also provides a lot of challenges and gives the opportunity to learn new things and become more independent as being a student you are likely to have almost no independence.
This would also make you more financially aware for the future as you would have been managing more money than you would have been in college or at school. This will also give you an idea as to what it’s like to live and manage money independently.
Saving money is a great idea to get a head start to fund your student life at university as you will have less time in university to work and earn money so saving up beforehand will make managing money during university a lot easier and less stressful.
A gap year can be used to try new things and see what you want to do with your life and future, it is a year with no distraction or pressure.
It can be very easy to finish your A-Levels and go straight to university because it seems like the right thing to do but university is not for everyone and it is very expensive so it is important not to rush into it just because you think it’s the easier option.
Therefore, taking time away from studying can help to focus on your future plans and find something that you enjoy doing rather than spending more years studying when it’s not what you really want to do.
If you have decided to take a gap year before university then you will most likely need to justify your reasons for taking a year out when you apply for your course at university, so make sure that you are taking a ‘gap year’ for the right reasons and that those reasons will not deter your university from offering you a place.
A ‘gap year’ can give you the breathing space to make the decision to either continue studying for a further three years and devote your time to an undergraduate degree, or go straight into work.
Starting a Business
If you are one of those people who have no clue what to do with your future but still aspire to be successful then starting a business might be an interesting option for you.
To be successful in the world of business you need to have certain qualities to carry you through the many difficulties it faces. Having an entrepreneurial spirit is very important if you are considering starting a business because you won’t get very far without that drive.
You will need to be resourceful and also very patient as you will not have very much to work with and it will take time to grow.
You will also need an idea, something you feel passionate about is probably more suitable but doing something you’re good at will also work.
It is important to understand that starting a business doesn’t have to mean you need mountains of money. You can start small and work to grow bigger. You can start a business through social media or starting a website, it doesn’t always have to be scary and confusing.
Most students will have no money or the experience to start a business so it is a good idea to have a partner to start with and another job so that you have something to fall back on.
Learning a New Skill or Trade
Taking a ‘gap year’ gives you the opportunity to learn something new’ either something you enjoy or something that will further your future career.
If there is something you have always wanted to try out then a gap year may be the perfect opportunity to do so, it gives you the chance to broaden your knowledge and abilities so that you have more stuff for your CV.
If your ‘gap year’ is based in a different country where English is not so widely spoken then you should aim to pick up some useful phrases. Learning a language is a really good skill to acquire and one that will make you a lot more employable.
Work Experience and Internships
Most employers expect you to have undertaken some sort of work experience, a gap year is a brilliant chance to start building up various types of work experience for your CV. Work experience makes you more employable especially if it is related to the industry you will be working in.
The more relevant the better, if you want to be an accountant for example, try and get work experience at an accountancy firm or an admin department of any business. If you have experience working in a café then you aren’t very likely to get a job in an accountancy firm.
If you have taken the time to go and get a range of work experience it shows your employer that you are serious about work and have a good attitude towards working for others. It will also aid you in interviews as you will be able to draw on your past work experience to give examples of particular challenges you have faced and how you have overcome them thus making you the perfect employee.
Can You Take a Gap Year During University?
I would not recommend taking a year out during your university degree, it will make your degree a lot harder and there is high chance you will forget all of the content you learnt beforehand.
There are multiple reasons why I say that, the first reason being that it will make it a lot harder for you to be successful in your degree if you take a year out of the middle of it, especially if that year has no relevance to your course or your future career path.
Studying at degree level is very hard so to give yourself unnecessary time out could make it even more challenging. It will be harder because you will lose your momentum for studying and you will lose the routine that works for you.
Also, you are likely to forget about your studies and will have to relearn certain aspects of your course which may have slipped your memory.
Another thing that might be difficult is when you return to study you will have a new class with new people so it will feel like starting all over again.
You might also find that after a year of doing what you want returning to study might be quite difficult to do and the motivation to study could be hard to come by.
You may need to consider that taking a gap year during a degree may not be an option at specific universities and you would have to check with your chosen university before doing so.