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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Junior Web Developer

£18 - 22k (DOE) + Benefits & Stock Options: Guru Careers: Junior Developer / J...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Structural Engineer ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Sales Executive

£18 - 24k OTE + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Executive ...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?