University Advice

Welcome to our University Advice section. We have prepared the information here to help students understand the vast options of studying home or abroad at higher education level. Most of the topics are written as Questions and Answers and if there is a question that you have that we do not provide an answer for, get in touch we would love to hear from you and help further.

Should I take a gap year?

For some people, going all the way through education from primary school to secondary school to college, university and then into work is a great way to progress through life. For others a year out or a gap year is needed.

Our advice is that a gap year is a great idea. It gives you a chance to take on a different challenge. A gap year is NOT about taking a break, or doing nothing. A gap year should be a very different challenge to what formal education requires of you.

The most important thing when deciding to take a gap year is when to take it. We strongly advice that students do not take a gap year during the duration of their course. It is possible that you will not return to complete your studies, however some students have found it beneficial and have returned to their studies with more focus, drive and passion.

Whether it is traveling the world or time spent working, what ever you decide to do during your gap year should provide you with an alternative learning experience.

The benefits of taking a Gap year after graduation

There are two types of students who think about taking a gap year after graduation.  The first type are the forward planners who, either at the outset of going to university had thought about having a break immediately after graduation, or start to plan to do so in the second or third year at university.  These students don’t bother to apply for jobs in the final year, but tend to focus on getting the best class of degree.  The other type are what could be described as “spontaneous gapers” who haven’t secured a job towards the end of their final year and regard a gap year as something to do and hopefully gain new skills and experiences by traveling around one or more country, or by undertaking some voluntary work with UK or abroad.

It is obviously much more effective if students plan to take a gap year well in advance of their final year. The most important reason for taking a planned gap year is that students are much more likely to secure opportunities that will help to enhance their CVs and improve their chances of finding fulfilling and graduate level jobs at the end of their adventure.

The skills to be gained from securing a structured gap year includes, confidence building; entrepreneurship (get and go to become a self starter); team working and building; fund raising; forward planning and organization; and most importantly, the ability to initiate and complete challenging projects.  All the skills and abilities employers look for, beyond the type and class of the first degree.  Gap year has the potential to enable bright students to build a differential advantage over other recent graduates competing in highly discerning job markets.

Most people tend to think of gap years with voluntary work, Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), traveling and teaching English as a foreign language, or simply as an opportunity to travel alone or with a group around one or more countries.  There are many more opportunities for graduates who are willing to plan a structured gap year with real tangible benefits in mind.  There are opportunities for structured gap year in almost all the disciplines, including animal care; architecture; arts; business; farming; flying; health care; law, sports coaching; teaching; and working with children.

In addition to the many voluntary, unpaid opportunities, there are several programmes around the world that pay travel costs and also small salaries.  

There are many organizations and online resources that students should tap into to plan their gap year.  The most obvious one is VSO International (www.vsointernational.org). The other popular ones for travel and work in different countries are Ripple Africa (www.rippleafrica.org) and Raleigh International (raleighinternational.org).  There are also agencies that aim to help young people plan and secure opportunities, the leading ones include Real Gap Experience (www.realgap.co.uk), Projects Abroad (www.projects-abroad.org), British Exploring and for those looking for adventure there is the Xtreme Gap Year (xtremegapyear.co.uk).

The leading portal for help with planning structured gap year is the Year Out Group (www.yearoutgroup.org) that has a wide range of well established providers offering a wide range of locations, activities and services.

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