Whether you choose to take a gap year before or after going to university, or enjoy a gap trip without taking a whole year out, you can be sure it’s going to be a life-changing and extremely rewarding experience.
Taking time out of your studies or before starting work is a big decision, and it’s important to think about the time that works best for you. There’s no right or wrong answer and your situation, priorities and feelings will be completely unique to you.
If you’re wondering about the best time to take a gap year, take a look at some of the pros and cons to the different options below. Which of these matter the most to you?
Take a gap year before university
Prepares you for independent living
If you spend some time away from home on your gap year, you’ll learn to live independently, cook for yourself, manage your money and budget – all skills that will be really useful during university. This is probably the first time in your life where you’ll have to take real control and responsibility, and it will give you great practise for starting your newly independent life at uni.
Helps you decide what you’d like to study
57% of participants in a survey conducted by the American Gap Association said that their gap year helped them decide what they wanted to study at university. When you finish school, you might still be feeling unsure about what you’d like to continue studying, or want to wait until you have received your results before making the decision. If so, a gap year before university gives you the time to reflect on your skills and interests and opens your mind to other opportunities that may be available before jumping into higher education.
Boosts your university application
Applying to university is a competitive process and it really helps to make your application stand out from the crowd. Using your gap year to take part in meaningful, constructive projects sets you apart as a strong and self-motivated candidate. Volunteering, relevant work experience or travelling independently are all worthwhile experiences that add real value to your application and personal statement. You can even earn UCAS points from certain expeditions.
You’ll be a year older than most of your classmates
This may or may not be a disadvantage depending on how you see it. Some people may not like the idea of being a year out of sync with many of their friends, but others appreciate the extra maturity and confidence gained on a gap year that helps making new friends at university.
If you do decide to take a year out before starting uni, you won’t be the only one – UCAS reports around 8% of students defer their university place in order to take a gap year, with many more waiting until their year out to apply.
Concerns about not returning to full-time education
You – and maybe your parents too – might be worried that taking a year out before university could discourage you from wanting to return to education once the year is up.
However, if you structure your gap year properly and use it to add to your personal and academic development, it can actually help you to move towards your goal of attending university rather than pull you away from it. Many students also say they feel burnt out after years of school and find a break from education refreshing, leaving them more motivated to start their university studies.
Take a gap year after university
You’ll be more confident and mature
The extra confidence and emotional maturity gained from a few years at university might make you feel able to get more out of your gap year. By the time you’ve finished university you might have a clearer idea of who you are and what you want to get out of your experience, so you can really make the most of your time.
You have no commitments
Unless you’ve managed to secure a job with a deferred start date, after finishing university your future plans are open-ended. This leaves you with more freedom to take opportunities as they come, and this can directly influence your career prospects and the direction you’re heading. Whether it’s spending longer in a country you’ve visited and come to love, accepting a job offer off the back of some work experience or being offered an exciting opportunity by someone you’ve met on your gap year, now is the time to make the most of your lack of commitments and grab every opportunity that comes your way.
Improve your career prospects with an internship
Using your gap year to gain some work experience in your chosen field is an ideal way to bridge the gap between study and work, giving you a taste of what it’s like to work in the industry and adding relevant experience to your CV.
An overseas internship programme can satisfy your desire for adventure and discovery whilst giving you hands-on experience in an exciting and engaging working environment. You’ll spend time shadowing staff, getting involved in daily tasks and learning more about the current issues and practices in the area that interests you.
Miss out on applying to graduate schemes
Taking a year off before starting a career means that you could miss out on some of the sought-after graduate schemes that start soon after graduation.
However, it’s not impossible to enjoy a gap year and still apply for these kinds of roles to start the following year. If you organise your plans wisely, you can spend some time properly focusing on your applications during your gap year rather than trying to do them whilst you’re in the middle of studying for your final exams, and you’ll be able to fit in some time to travel or work as well.
You’ll possibly have some student debt by this point
Many people understandably worry about the debt they have racked up during university and feel the pressure to start a career straight away in order to start paying it off.
Student debt doesn’t have to be a barrier to enjoying a gap year after you graduate though. The right gap year can be an investment in your future, giving you valuable life experience that can set you apart from other candidates in the competitive job market. Look for worthwhile opportunities that will contribute to your personal development and employability and by the time you start applying for jobs you’ll have some great experiences to add to your CV and strengthen your applications.
Alternatives to a gap year
Perhaps taking a whole year out doesn’t really fit in well with your plans – that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the ‘gap year’ experience. Long holidays at uni means there’s plenty of time to fit in an adventurous and rewarding gap trip in-between your years of study, or perhaps in the summer between finishing school and starting university.
At Camps International, we offer programmes from just 2 weeks with departure dates throughout the year, meaning you can fit a shorter trip into the time you have available without having to defer your studies.
Once you’ve decided when to take a gap year, the most exciting part is deciding where you’re going and what you’re going to be doing. Get inspired by checking out our independent volunteering programmes in Asia, Africa and South America and start your adventure today.