A gap year is a year taken out of full-time education. Young people most typically take them between sitting their A-Levels/Level 3 Qualifications and starting university. They are an excellent way to get some work experience, explore the world, learn new skills, and take a break from the routines of education.

Gap years are accessible at other life and education stages as well as pre-university, with over 230,000 young people aged between 18 and 25 taking one. It can sometimes feel like you are on a continuous path from GCSE’s, to A-Levels, to university, and then into the world of work without stopping to take a breath. More and more young people want a break from this trajectory, allowing them to be more creative about how they want to spend their time.

There are many different gap year options, and the way you spend your year is entirely up to you. The most popular ways to spend it include:

  • travelling and backpacking,
  • working to earn money for your next step
  • volunteering
  • taking shorter courses
  • gaining work experience in a particular career

Finishing school is a huge step, and in this new unexplored territory, it can be hard to know whether taking a gap year is right for you. For some, it’s a life-changing experience that sets them up for the real world but for others it’s just simply not the right time to be taking a break from education.

We have compiled a list of questions you may ask yourself before considering embarking on a gap year.

  • Do you want a break from education?

    For some people, this is essential. Whether it’s before starting, or after finishing university prior to entering the world of work,a gap year gives you a chance to recuperate from a period of hard work. It can give you time to reflect on everything you have achieved up until now before rushing into the next stage of your life.

    It is important to consider, many people will find it hard coming back to education after a long time out. It can be tough to re-establish the routines and self-discipline needed for further education after such a long break. If you know you want to return to education on your return, make sure you have a plan and prepare yourself for the next stage.

  • Are there things you want to do?

    If there are places you want to explore or jobs you want to try out, then a gap year might suit you perfectly. There are no restrictions on what you must do during a gap year, but it is valuable to go out and do something that will enrich your experiences as opposed to sitting at home not doing much at all.

  • Can you afford it?

    Unless your gap year is to earn and save money (which a great option for many people worried about the financial cost of university), gap years can be costly.

    The cost varies depending on what you do, where you go, and how long you stay for, but can be anywhere up to around £4000. As this is a lot of money, you could save up by finding yourself a part-time job whilst at school or university, or even consider working for the first half of your gap year and then set off travelling in the other.

    For more information on funding, a gap year visit our pages on full-time and part-time working.

  • Are you prepared to plan your year?

    Whether you want to stay at home and work for a year or spend the whole year traveling around the world, it’s important to have a plan. Consider making a plan before committing to taking a gap year as lengthier, more-adventurous trips, can take as long as nine months to arrange.

  • Does it suit your plans for afterward?

    Make sure to check that by taking a gap year, you aren’t jeopardising your place at university or on an apprenticeship. Many courses do allow you to defer your place, but this will depend on the university.