Advice on a gap year

Your plans to take a gap year may be affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. It could even be the reason why you’re thinking about taking time out from further study or starting a career. Before you decide if it’s the right option for you, check the government's Coronavirus advice on what is safe to do and where is safe to go.

Reasons to take a gap year

A gap year can be good way to develop yourself and your skills while deciding your next step. A well-planned gap year is not just a break from study or getting into work. It can help you to:

  • improve your CV with work experience
  • have time to think about your long-term career plans
  • learn something new to support your future goal
  • travel and experience other cultures
  • mature and focus – an advantage in career areas like healthcare and teaching
  • earn money to support yourself in future study

You may have had a sudden change of plan. Exam results and changes in your circumstances sometimes mean that you have to rethink your next steps. Taking a gap year could give you time to pause and reflect.

During a gap year you can focus on exploring all of your options, without rushing into anything. You can take time to get get advice. If you're a school leaver and want to improve your awarded grades you can also schedule in autumn or summer exams during your year out.

How to spend your gap year

What you can do will depend on your situation and your long-term goal. You might need to learn skills or get experience to get into a specific career. Depending on your circumstances you could:

  • get a paid job
  • volunteer
  • do some work experience or an internship including virtual internships
  • travel - you could organise it yourself or go through a gap year company
  • do an online course, learn a language, develop study or work-related skills like IT, or business

What you'll gain from a gap year

How you ‘sell’ the experience you have during your gap year will be important to employers and higher education providers. From their viewpoint, a good gap year experience is one where you spend your time productively.

Time spent on a gap year can help you to develop your soft skills like:

  • time management
  • organisation
  • problem solving
  • financial management
  • being able to take on new challenges
  • creativity
  • people skills

Gap year-things to consider

You may be thinking that you should wait until next year to go to university because teaching might be virtual this year. This could be a feature of university life for some time in the future and not just this year.

You should remember that:

  • competition next year may be greater if more people defer this year
  • the jobs market is now more competitive so finding work might be challenging
  • travel abroad may be restricted
  • a year out can be expensive
  • without careful planning, you could lose your pace, study skills and focus

You may be having difficulty getting your first job as a school or college leaver. If you're a graduate, you may be facing fewer opportunities because of the sudden changes in the world of work. Taking a year out may help you to develop your skills and build your resilience as well as allowing time for the jobs market to improve.

Gap year tips

When you are preparing for a gap year, you should make sure to:

  • plan well in advance– speak to a careers adviser if you don’t know where to start
  • sort out your finances – think about how you’re going to support yourself
  • think about skills and qualifications you’ll need for your future career goal and make a plan for how to develop them
  • keep your CV up-to-date
  • make a note of important university or job recruitment application deadlines so you don’t miss them (particularly if you’re planning to travel abroad)