You may feel that you need a break from education or you are just uncertain about what your next steps should be. A gap year can be very beneficial for your personal and social development as well as being an opportunity to gain a greater insight into possible career paths.
It is vital that any gap year is well planned and organised; avoid using it just to delay making important decisions and make sure you do something meaningful. Employers and universities will not look favourably on a break where there has been no focus or benefit to your development. You could volunteer to help others and put your skills to the test, maybe discover a different culture and learn a new language or gain relevant experiences in an area in which you wish to study or work.
“I wanted to have some time out of education before I went to University. Some time to think about where I wanted to go in life, and time to mature before embarking on the next step. So I chose to take a gap year, and travel. The 10 months I spent navigating my way through India, Nepal and Vietnam are the most enriching, challenging and rewarding of my life so far. I grew so much as a person, and came to University more level headed than I ever would have if I “Segwayed” straight from school to higher education. Being a summer baby, born in July, I am almost a year behind some others, so was very keen to live a little, and get some life experience before Uni.
Having the chance to see how other parts of the world work, visit wonderful places and meet a diversity of people has given me an inexhaustible set of truly unforgettable memories. This experience also taught me how to live. I had never been away from home for more than a few weeks. I learned from experience how to deal with different people, finances, organisational skills and all the while gained a greater appreciation and knowledge of other people’s, cultures and countries.
Taking a gap year can be a wonderful experience if you try something different and challenging. If you have something you want to do, something that you are passionate about, then it can be a life changing time. I have to say that I definitely left a boy, and returned as a man.”
Eli Haines, TBSHS Leaver 2017, University of Nottingham Undergraduate 2018-21
There are a number of organisations that provide structured opportunities for combining volunteering and/or work with travel abroad (at a cost) and some companies also offer special work experience programmes for school leavers. For example, Investment20/20 offer 12 month training contracts through partner investment management firms that would provide fantastic work experience before deciding to continue with employment or go to university. Harlow College offer a one year Level 3 NCJT-accredited Journalism course that is free to study if you start it before you are 19. Complete it in a Gap Year and you could earn a qualification recognised as the gold standard by editors, build your journalism skills and, again, decide whether to continue straight into the industry or go onto university, not necessarily to study journalism, but something broader while building further journalistic experience within university publications. These kind of opportunities could be particularly valuable as Covid-19 impacts exotic travel plans.
Also remember, a Gap Year does not need to be one year of doing the same thing, you could put together a programme that includes a few months of several different activities , e.g. learn a language, do some paid casual work; volunteer and take a bit of holiday!