Taking a gap year

A year out between school or college and higher education or employment can give you a valuable and challenging learning experience, provided that it is planned constructively. Gaining experience (voluntary or paid), whether home or abroad can make a significant contribution to your personal development, knowledge and skills.

Employers and universities increasingly view gap year experience as worthwhile, as long as it is productive and shows evidence of enterprise and commitment. If you are thinking of taking a year out, check that your chosen university department is happy for you to apply for deferred entry.

Leaving university with a good degree is no longer enough to guarantee you will get the graduate job you want. With more students than ever entering higher education, companies expect relevant work experience. If you are hoping to continue in education or to work in the field of science, technology, engineering or maths, then it may be to your advantage to ensure your gap year is relevant to your field of interest in some way.

There are a wide range of books, websites and organisations available to help you plan your gap year. Some of the many organisations providing further information and advice about gap years, including selecting location, funding, travel arrangements, health precautions and accommodation are:

  • Year in Industry (YINI) – provides paid, degree-relevant work placements for students in the year out before or during their degree course. YINI placements provide structured and fully supported work experience from which students gain career and personal development, confirm their career choice and prepare for their degree.
  • Year Out Group – helps students select suitable and worthwhile projects. They have a list of questions students can ask to help them decide which project best suits their aspirations.
  • Raleigh International – a charity that provides adventurous and challenging expeditions for people from all backgrounds, nationalities and ages, especially young people. Over the last 23 years, 30,000 people have been involved developing their skills, exploring the world and making a real difference to local communities and their environment.
  • Gap Work.com – a resource for gap years, jobs abroad and volunteer placements.
  • Gap Year.com – provides useful checklists, advice and contact links to help plan your route to a life-changing experience.