Bridging the gap: Why a gap year may improve you and your career

There should be more to a gap year than mountain trekking or volunteering

Gap year, sabbatical, year out - even 'bridge year' as it is referred to at Princeton University – whatever you call it, the number of young people choosing to delay their entry to university is on the rise.

In recent years, an average 7 per cent of UCAS applicants have deferred their place in favour of a year away from structured study. At present 2.5 million teenagers are believed to be on a gap year. Often associated with backpacking around Asia or volunteering in orphanages, the gap year is frequently criticised. Costing, on average, between £3,000 and £4,000, it is an expensive decision. However, a gap year can be one of the most profitable and rewarding years of your life. That is, if you use it wisely. Backpacking and volunteering is not all there is to a gap year. It can be an exciting way of teaching you much about the world of work and ultimately about yourself.

Some have no choice but to take a year out: failure to meet conditions for university, they may need to gain additional qualifications. For others, fuelled by a desire to break convention and do something thrilling, many aspiring, fresh-faced teens take the plunge simply because they can. Having deferred my place at university until October 2014, I am one of those gap year teens. As a Scot going to an English University, I most probably would have been the youngest on my course had I started this year. Combine this with the fact that there are many new things I want to experience - a gap year seemed the perfect way of transitioning from school to higher education.

Not just a glorified holiday

The token travelling and volunteering I will do, but rolled into a six-week unpaid journalism internship alongside spells of work experience in the UK. This is one of the gap year’s biggest, most undervalued advantages: the ability to apply for, and undertake, work placements outside of the over-subscribed holiday periods. Vast quantities of work experience can be the jewel in the crown of any undergraduate CV. It allows better understanding of a particular job, helping a teenager to reaffirm their choice in a certain career. Alternatively, they may realise how wrong they were about their future, and therefore themselves.

Funding the year can be problematic. The bank of mum and dad is a necessary requirement for most, but part time jobs also become essential. My part time job will help fund some of the activities I have planned to do. It also keeps me, and my CV, busy. For so many on a gap year it is about juggling what will improve their future prospects, earning money and attempting new and enjoyable things. At times I may question my overly career focused thinking but surely in this economic climate a little bit of single-mindedness is a must. 

A recent study from the University of Western Australia revealed that the majority of gap year students did on average 2.3 per cent better in first year exams than those who went directly into university. Perhaps this is because gap year students tend to expose themselves to completely different environments from the structured study of school and university - the new-found independence and freedom equalling a different approach to studying when they do return to it. This may be an overly idealistic reason, but while experiencing the world of work – whether abroad or locally - outside the bubble of exams and essays, an overwhelmed teenager may realise what they want to do with their life.

This might be the most important part of the gap year experience for so many. Not the mountain trekking or volunteering which fills the pages of so many teenage blogs but rather the self-realisation which comes when you are forced to act like a fully self-sufficient, self-motivated adult. Clichéd - yes, but probably true.

Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus all the build-up to Man City vs Chelsea and Everton vs Palace
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Polly Borgen at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012
peopleThe Emmy award-winner starred in Cape Fear, the Sopranos and Desperate House Wives
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam