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Making Your Gap Year Work For You

What do you mean you can't afford a year out?

Don't take a year out then - take a month out over the summer, take two weeks, whatever, just don't abandon the idea of doing something completely different altogether. You can take time out before going to uni. You can take time out while you are studying - students have long summer holidays, and some degrees allow you to study abroad for a year, or do an internship overseas. When you graduate, you might think you will have to throw yourself straight into jobseeking, but if you possibly can afford to travel or work abroad when you finish uni, then you should, because work and travel abroad has the following well-established benefits:

  • You will have experienced something outside of your daily routine, and dealt with it.

  • You will have met new people from different cultures and backgrounds and interacted with them.

  • You may have actually funded your travel with work while you are away, showing that you can manage a budget and have a work ethic.

  • You will have organised your travel itinerary which demonstrates organisational skills.

  • You will be more confident in strange environments and when meeting new people.

  • You should have done some volunteering or work experience which makes your CV more impressive.

In short, if you combine travel with paid work, work experience or volunteering (and ideally a mixture of all 3) you will be a much more rounded individual than someone who has gone straight from sixth form into university, and hasn't travelled at all, apart from the odd holiday. Whatever happens with student fees, the jobs market for graduates is going to be tougher than ever in the foreseeable future, so you need to do whatever you can to make sure that when you finally do get down to some serious jobseeking, you have done everything you can to ensure that you stand the best possible chance.

But what about tuition fees and student debt?

Sure, student debt is a worry. But instead of it making you freak out, meet it head on. There are ways you can manage the debt. Tuition fees you can't do much about, but you can become skilled in the art of managing your money. Part time jobs during term time will become a necessary part of most student's lives, but the money you get from loans, grants, bursaries or employment can be saved, if you are prepared to sacrifice a few nights out or shopping trips. Over time this money will start to mount up, leaving you able to take part in a great value overseas volunteering placement, an internship abroad, or even working in the USA on a summer camp.

Look at your student years as a massive investment. Not only in terms of the cost of tuition fees, but also of your time. Use this amazing time to do something extraordinary, that will be much harder once you embark upon a career or family life when you get older.