Gap years are big business. Over 2 and a half million UK students plan on taking a year out before going to university, taking on an average cost of £3,500.
Whether you want to volunteer in a developing country or work with a charity; travel the world, or take part in a conservation project (or of course get a job to save up for university expenses) there are many things to think about. Our guide takes a look at some of the big questions that arise when planning a year out.
Gap years are now a huge and profitable industry, and with an ever increasing number of companies running thousands of projects and tours, the choice can be overwhelming. A good way to start looking at the opportunities available is to ask yourself “What do I want to get out of the year? What do I want to achieve?”
Breaking the choices down then becomes a little easier:
- Do you want to see the world?
- Do you want to work with children?
- Do you want to learn another language?
- Do you want to get right out of your comfort zone?
Spend a few hours with an independent resource website like Gapwork.com, which has a huge amount of free information available.
Very much tied up with “What do I want to do”, this is the other biggie. With gap year programmes available throughout the world - and of course the option to just travel, without taking part in any particular activity - this is very much going to be dictated by your budget. If you are not drawn to a particular country, or have a reason to go to a specific place (such as improving your language skills), then looking into what you want to do might narrow down your options as to where you go. Once you have drawn up a wish-list, take a look at the logistics and practicalities - visa costs and availability can vary considerably from country to country, for example.
Don’t discount the possibility of staying in the UK, either - as university becomes more expensive, an increasing number of people are choosing to work or volunteer without leaving the country. It’s a great way to get to know another part of Britain, or to earn money rather than spend thousands. Which brings us onto...
The average cost of a gap year is £3,500, and British parents spend an average of £763 helping to bankroll their offspring’s adventures. If money is no problem, then the world is your oyster. However, if you need to make your year out either cost-neutral, or in fact make you money, then your options are going to be more limited - although this in no way has to mean less fun or worthwhile. Keep an eye on relevant vacancies on websites like Gapyear.com - which also has a jobs list specifically for the UK - and consider options like working at a summer camp in the USA - you won’t make a lot of money, but it also won’t cost you anything while you are there.
There are many companies acting as agents for this sort of work, so make sure you choose the best one for you. There is also the possibility of both, of course: Why not work for three or four months and make enough money to travel afterwards? If this is your plan, then make sure you set up an account with Transferwise in order to move your money around the world without having to pay expensive bank transfer fees. If you are on a strict budget, then take a look at our guide to getting the best value from your gap year for some more ideas.
Whatever you decide to do, a year gaining new experiences and friends is never going to be wasted. You will gain valuable transferable skills that will look great on your CV, and the confidence that comes with stepping out of education for a time and gaining some different perspective on the world. Read our guide to getting the most of a gap year for some inspiration. If you’re still undecided as to where to go, and want some ideas, take a look at our list of the most popular gap year destinations for UK students.