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Should I take a Gap Year?

by Charles Nwabueze
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Find out about gap year here and consider if it’s a good move for you.

What is a Gap Year?

A gap year for a student in the UK is typically a year-long break before, during or after university during which students engage in various educational and developmental activities, such as travel or some type of work. Gap year takers may perform a host of activities that they so wish. These may include taking advanced courses in different subjects, travelling, volunteering, learning a trade, studying art, taking part in internships, playing sports, or participating in cultural exchanges. 

Benefits of a Gap Year

A productive gap year can make your CV look extraordinary. The experiences you gained may the one thing that distinguishes you from other strong candidates you go up against for jobs.

A gap year offers you the opportunity to become a more rounded and exposed individual. If you have chosen to travel to a different country, living and working alongside the locals will allow you to appreciate other cultures and expand your global outlook. Something employers appreciate

A gap year offers you the opportunity to gain skills and experiences while giving you time to reflect and focus on what you want to do next.

A gap year can also enhance your higher education studies – if you decide to apply for uni, you could tailor your gap year to relate it to the subject area you plan to study. There have been studies which indicate that students who take a gap year perform better academically than those who do not.

With your gap year, you could make money for university (if you have not started) or make money to take on other courses (if you have finished uni) like the LPC, BPTC and an MBA. While you may not make the whole tuition fees you could at least make some of it

Cons of Taking a Gap Year

If you are planning on doing the typical thing people do during a gap year which is travelling to a different country, it can be very expensive. You’ll find that paying for your flights, accommodation, and living expenses in the new city will be no easy feat. 

Distracted: at the beginning of people going to uni, you’ll find that they are focused but as time goes on they become distracted and fall by the wayside. The same can happen during a gap year. You might find yourself in exciting locations, meet new people, fall in love, and forget what you came there for building your skills and learning about yourself. 

Disclaimer: The author of this article has no issues with people falling in love during gap years just remember what you went there for.

Travelling alone to a new country can be difficult. While going alone can teach you how to be independent it can also be lonely. It is possible to get depressed and discouraged in a new country when you are all alone with different weather, food, and culture.

It can be harder to return to study or work after a year-long break.

Why do you want to take a year out?

Before you embark on a gap year it’s good practice to have a conversation with yourself about what you want to gain from the gap year. Set goals and objectives:

  • have a break from study to recharge
  • gain new skills/experiences
  • earn money
  • spend time deciding what you want to do

It’s really important to form a plan of what you will do for the year, no matter what your gap year idea is, and you need to start planning well in advance.

What next?

First things first because of the pandemic your gap year may be impacted, irrespective of whether you plan to travel, or stay local and get a job. It’s likely that as guidance from UK governments, and other countries change you might need to review or, in some cases, reschedule your plans. So always keep an eye on the country’s restrictions plans you want to visit well ahead of time. For example, visiting China now may not be wise due to its zero-tolerance approach to COVID-19

Notwithstanding this, there are loads of ideas you could consider, some might take the whole year, others a few months or a few weeks.  

Things you could do during your gap year

  • Paid employment: By earning money and gaining new skills at home or abroad during your gap year you learn the benefits and challenges of being independent. 
  • Work experience: If the career you intend to pursue places value on a relevant experience like a career in law, you could consider a work placement or internship which may last from a few weeks to a year. Getting work experience will not only improve your CV but can help you secure a graduate role. 
  • Volunteering: By supporting a worthwhile cause you’ll be able to improve your social skill and self-esteem. Volunteering will also help you make an impact in the community or organization that you choose to volunteer for
  • Travel: by travelling you get to explore the world, gain exposure to new cultures, and gain fascinating insights into celebrations, history struggles, food, and ways of life of other countries or even continent. 
  • Take courses in other subjects or learn new skills: Since you have a year to yourself why not take the opportunity to try something new? You could take up a new language, learn how to programme, try a new sport or musical instrument, or learn a new practical skill, such as mechanics, carpentry, the piano or cookery. 

When to Take A Gap Year?

It generally depends on your preference. Some might choose not to take a gap year, others may prefer that it’s better before uni while others may think during uni is best, and yet others might think after uni is also good. Some might even take gap years at multiple points – I did.

Taking a gap year before uni

Many schools and college students before going to uni may choose to have a break for one reason or the other. It might be to see more of the world before going to university or the lack of funds to embark on uni or having to look after a loved one. It doesn’t matter what the reason is but if you want to take your gap year before uni and you’ve applied to uni already, you’ll need to inform them of your plans so your place can be deferred. Mind you it’ll be up to the university to assess the case and make a decision as to whether you can defer.

Taking a gap year during university

I’ll not recommend this to anyone because taking a gap year while at uni might affect the momentum you have built while at uni. Furthermore, if you take a gap year while at uni when you come back you’ll find that your classmates have moved on and are now your seniors which might be a bit hard to swallow than you might think at first. In my opinion, it’s best to get uni out of the way before embarking on a gap year.

However, if you have a good reason for taking time out from your course to do a gap year then by all means go for it. Or on the other hand, you could turn your summer break which usually lasts for at least four months into a mini gap year.

Taking a Gap year after uni

This might be a bit tricky. It is recognized that in the UK there is strong competition for jobs or graduate schemes, so a gap year can enable you to build the skills employers are looking for and you’ll be equipped with experiences to give your CV a boost.

On the other hand, as a result of studying you would have incurred debts which you need to settle; in this scenario, it’d make more sense to go straight into work to earn money to pay the debts off. 

Regardless of your decision, if done right taking a gap year might be quite good for you and your career plans.

Charles is a writer, practising lawyer and personal trainer who loves learning and developing himself. He graduated from Middlesex University, London with eight first-class grades in the second and third years of his law degree, and received a postgraduate offer from Cambridge University. He loves strength training, boxing and encouraging people to succeed in their pursuits (legal ones)
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