FAQ: Gap years

Tom Griffiths, Founder of gapyear.com, answers your most common questions about gap years.

lost couple

Q1: "Where the hell are we?"

I want to take a gap year but my boyfriend isn’t interested in travelling at all and wants to go to uni this year – how can I persuade him to come with me?

Would you rather persuade him to come and end up travelling with someone who doesn’t really want to be there, or travel without him and each develop in your own way? If he doesn’t want to go, don’t force him. And don’t listen to the cynics amongst your friends – loads of gappers manage to keep long-distance relationships going while they’re travelling.

I’m taking a gap year and I want to travel for the whole time but I didn’t have a part-time job while I was at college so I’m totally broke. How long will it take me to save up enough money?

You’re looking at this the wrong way. Work out how much you have and how much you’re capable of earning (remember you can work while you travel as well as before you go), and then decide on what you’re going to do.

A cheap flight to Europe can be very cheap, an InterRail ticket only a few hundred or a round-the-world ticket under a grand. Then work out what you’re going to spend when you’re there. This can vary enormously, depending on how you choose to live. I once did a three-month trip across Canada and the US that cost me less than £500.

However, if you scrimp and save too much, you’ll miss out on some treasures along the way. If this is your first trip, don’t go for a whole year. Go for six months and do twice as much with your time!

Why should I take a gap year – what will universities and employers think?

It’s a fact that if you take a gap year, you’re less likely to drop out of uni after your first year. Universities like students who take a gap year for this reason, and also because they tend to be more mature when they arrive at uni. Look around you during freshers’ week – it’s easy to tell those who’ve done a gap year from those who haven’t!

A gap year could also help you bag your dream job. Employers no longer employ people solely on the basis of their qualifications. Life skills – such as decision making and living independently that you’ll gain on your gap year – are seen as more important.

I’ve just got my exam results and decided to take a gap year before uni. Have I left it too late to organise a placement?

Absolutely not! There are lots of places left on organised placements: check out www.gapyear.com/clearing. And cheap flights don’t kick in until after Christmas. So don’t panic!

How do I know whether my gap year placement’s going to be any good?

There are a number of questions you should ask your placement organisationbefore you sign up. You’ll want to find out about travel arrangements, where you’ll be staying and the work you’ll be doing. Check out what training or preparation you’ll receive and whether there’ll be an English-speaking representative nearby. Get everything in writing, and ask to speak to someone who did the same placement last year.

What is a round-the-world ticket?

These are flexible flight tickets, set up for backpackers, which allow you to hop from country to country around the world. They last for up to 12 months, and are great value for money. If this is your first trip, I strongly advise you to look into RTW tickets. If you’re dreaming of Oz, for example, an RTW ticket will let you take in loads of other countries on the way there and on the way back. For more info, visit www.gapyear.com/flights.

Do I need to go abroad to have a good time on my gap year? What cool stuff can I do in the UK?

The UK is full of opportunities that people never consider because they don’t know what’s out there. Chances are that there are stacks of cool things to do within 10 miles of your home, and you’ve only taken advantage of a fraction of them.

Volunteering is one option. Sounds dull? Ask yourself what do you love doing, and find a way to share it with others. Coach the kids’ football team in your neighbourhood or design a website for a local homeless charity.

Check out do-it to search through thousands of local volunteering opportunities. CSV is another organisation that offers awesome opportunities, including media houses around the country where you can learn media skills. Year in Industry, the Prince’s Trust and BTCV (a charity that works with people to bring about positive environmental change) can help you to have some top experiences.

Photo of lost couple by Shutterstock

Next Steps

  • Looking for a mentor to help boost your knowledge and skills? Find a youth zone close to you.
  • Reveal your skills with Define Me and find the right words to tell employers.
  • Download Motimator - an app that helps you get the career you want - by giving you a gentle kick up the ass each day when motivation is running low.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015