When you hear the words ‘gap year’, the thought of backpacking across Thailand or scuba diving in South America might spring to mind. But, taking a break before starting University doesn’t always need to be filled with thrill-seeking adventures and can actually be a way to clear your head and prepare for the next step in your life. You’d be amazed by the benefits of spending your year before uni working a basic shop or barista job. Here are 4 benefits of taking a working gap year, and why you’ll never regret that break.
1 – Money
The financial benefits of a working gap year are probably the most relevant to students aiming for university. Money stresses are a common issue among students, and having the safety net of a few savings can save some of those worries. The best way to approach this is to take an amount of your choice out of your pay every month and put it aside in a separate savings account ready for when you start university. It can be all too tempting to just go on a mad spending spree when you start working full-time, but if you’re clever with how much you save each month, you’d be surprised how far your pennies can stretch. You’ll have enough money to spend on day-to-day life, but also build up a decent balance in your savings ready to take with you.
Student loans are a great way to support yourself through university, yet having a backup of savings can definitely be a life saver, especially in the long run. While your friends are dipping into their overdrafts, you can be dipping into your gap year money without racking up even more debt. With a safety net of funds, you’ll feel much more comfortable and safe knowing you have enough money on top of your student loan to afford necessities such as stationary, books and food, as well as for those all important nights out.
What’s more, over the summer holidays, you won’t have a student loan to get you through those months, and this can be a good way to support yourself, even if you have a job too. And even better, you won’t have to stress about affording that summer holiday with your new uni friends! It might seem a bit extreme to be thinking really far into the future, especially if you haven’t started uni yet, but having an amount of savings waiting can be really supportive for leaving university, especially if you want to do work experience, or aren’t able to get straight into a graduate job. If you grow dependent on the government’s money and leave without anything in your back pocket for a rainy day, it could be more of a shock than you realise to start on your own.
2 – ‘But if I take a gap year, I won’t want to go to uni anymore’
A lot of people worry that a year in the workplace will be enough to persuade them to not attend university altogether, but realistically, if you think there’s the possibility of you changing your mind, you should really consider the reasons you want to go in the first place. A gap year, especially in the workplace, can set out your priorities – whether you enjoy the working lifestyle, or can’t wait to start your degree.
Taking a gap year should make you look forward to going to university, and inspire and motivate you to reach that next chapter. Having the time to look forward to the course you’ve chosen will really determine if you’ve made the right decision. If you are on the fence, either about which course to do, which uni to attend or whether to go at all, this year is the perfect break to take the time to discover your options. You’ll have a whole year to visit open days and focus in on different opportunities, and whatever you decide in the end, the lack of pressure to make a decision straight away will take a weight off of your shoulders.
3 – Confidence and Life Skills
The thought of moving (sometimes very far) away from home, starting afresh, living with strangers and surviving on your own can be very daunting, even for the most confident of people. Having a job, especially in retail, means you’re interacting with new people everyday, which can build your confidence in talking to people and being in sociable situations.
The fast-paced environment for work is also perfect to build upon skills that will prove useful at university, and even give you an edge if you’re hoping to apply for part-time jobs while you study. Having to get yourself up and to work on time, be confident and independent, manage long days and working with different personalities for hours on end are all skills that you’ll take into your university life. You’ll also have a small-scale experience of starting somewhere new and having to make new friends, which is a great trial-run. Generally, having time to work acts as a good stepping stone for university, helping you find self-motivation and time management that’s completely different from the atmosphere of school or college.
4 – A Break
By the time we reach the end of sixth form or college, most of us will have spent more than 80% of our lives in education – waking up everyday, going to school and learning. And while the majority of us choose to go to university, even after all these years in education, it is important to remember just that – going to university is a choice and therefore we can choose to go at the time in our lives that suits us.
There can often be a lot of pressure put upon getting your degree as soon as possible, and the thought of taking a year out might never cross your mind, but, if not for all the other reasons mentioned in this article, taking a break is another fantastic reason to take a working gap year. While it can be tempting to sit and do nothing but watch Netflix, play Xbox or go out every night, driving your energy and focus into something other than essays and exams for the first time can be fulfilling and exciting. Perhaps you’ve had a passion you’ve never had a chance to explore or the time to pursue, for example working with children or doing makeovers on a beauty counter, taking a working gap year is the perfect opportunity to get stuck into an area you’re interested in or enjoy before continuing to pursue your passions at university too.
But above all, it’s important to remember to do what feels right for you. A-levels and college can prove extremely stressful and overwhelming, and may make you want to lose interest in education altogether. University is a completely different experience however, and it’s important to listen to your mind and body when they’re telling you to take a break and invest in yourself before moving onto the next chapter. Taking this break will open plenty of doors and give you space to think about your future and make a stress-free decision in your own time.
It’s easy to overlook the benefits of taking a working gap year, or think a gap year is simply a waste of time. But, whether you’re in year 13 and contemplating what to do next, or planning ahead and deciding whether university is right for you, think about the possibilities this could open up, and how it could help you make the right decision for your future.
Let us know in the comments if you took a gap year, and what advice you have to those thinking about it too!