Back in the day – we are talking about 30 years ago now – it was completely normal to take a gap year before going to university. Hardly anyone went straight there. Everyone wanted to have a tale of adventures and near scrapes in far flung places to relate on their first day at uni. But now it seems that this generation of work-focused students haven’t got time to contemplate the thought of time out in their headlong pursuit of the world of work. Here we look at the top 5 reasons why a gap year can be a valuable and life changing experience and enhance your CV.
Universities don’t mind
Firstly, deferring entry to university and taking a gap year is not going to ruin your chances of getting into a top institution. Many universities positively embrace a student taking a year out between school and studying further, recognising it gives students a degree of independence and an ability to cope with change that will stand them in good stead when they start their course.
Whether you are applying to defer your entry or taking the pressure off and applying post results, your gap year plans need to be well-articulated in your personal statement to demonstrate how it will be of use when you do get to university. Be sure to check your university is happy to defer – some, such as Oxford and Cambridge, are unlikely to offer deferred places
Opportunity to gain work experience
Funding your own gap year means that you will have to find a way of earning money to make your ideas become a reality. Whether you are working in a shop or waiting tables in your local restaurant, all of these experiences give you hands on practice dealing with people, learning the meaning of an 8 hour day and teaches you the value of money. Once you realise it takes a morning to earn £40 you will think twice about blowing it all on a top you will wear once.
This is also very valuable when it comes to joining the world of work later on – a third of top graduate employers said it was very unlikely they would offer a job to a graduate with no work experience.
Insights into new cultures
Finding work in another country can give you the opportunity to travel and work at the same time. This can really open your eyes and give you an insight and understanding of the culture you are living in, experience of a different way of life, help you make real connections with local communities and make new friends. According to a survey by gapyear.com, 60% of ‘gappies’ are interested in volunteering projects.
But it is really important you do your research, some of the volunteering projects are hugely worthwhile but be wary of some of the all-inclusive travel/volunteering activities as some of these projects may do more harm than good and barely allow you to scratch the surface of the countries you visit, rather defeating the point of really learning about yourself and other places and standing on your own two feet.
Going travelling can be an amazing experience. It is often a bit scary and uncomfortable to begin with but it is a great opportunity to leave your comfort zone and challenge yourself to experience new things, be it a 30 hour train journey across India or a bungee jump in New Zealand.
You also learn how to cope with the unexpected such as a bout of food poisoning that might disrupt your plans or getting on the wrong bus and ending up in a totally unplanned destination. Once you have learned to cope with the unexpected and turn a situation around you will be amazed how much you will grow in confidence and resilience.
Gain new skills
Investigate acquiring a particular skill such as learning a language, a cooking course or learning an entrepreneurial skill. Or look into internships – several of the larger companies such as IBM, offer year-long programmes for students in between school and university. A structured gap year is definitely the way ahead, gone are the days of it being one long beach party!
A gap year should not be a year of lying in bed dreaming of things to come or a series of paid for and curated adventures subbed by the bank of Mum & Dad. To really get the most out of a gap year it needs to be extremely well-planned and thought through. That way you will learn about self-motivation, getting up in the morning, how to manage your money and what to do when your passport gets stolen, plus have some fabulous photos to put on Instagram to make all of your friends jealous!