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Gap years: Pros and cons

Gap years: Pros and consYou can do a lot on a gap year - but be aware of the downsides, too.

Between school or college and university is a good time to take time out, whether it's to earn some money for your studies, get work experience, travel the world or volunteer. You don't even have to worry about applying to university at the end of the year: you can apply before your gap year and take 'deferred entry', which means you have an offer but it's postponed for a year.

But gap years aren't for everyone, and you need to think carefully about the upsides and downsides before making a decision.

Pros and cons of taking a gap year

Advantages

  • The experiences you gain can make you better prepared for  university, both academically and socially
  • It’s probably the longest 'holiday' you will ever be able to take in your life - taking long breaks will be harder once your career starts
  • You can use some or all of the time to earn money for university, taking the pressure of your finances
  • You can learn new skills
  • You get the chance to experience life away from home before starting university
  • Volunteering gives you the opportunity to help people
  • Both volunteering and working will provide valuable work experience
  • If you're feeling dedicated, you can get ahead on preparations for your course
  • If you didn't get the grades in one of your A-levels, you can retake it and reapply while using the rest of your time to do something else

Disadvantages

  • If you want to travel or take part in an organized gap year programme, it could be expensive
  • There may be changes to your course or your student finance package during your year off
  • If your friends from home are all going to uni, your social life could dry up
  • Unless you revise, you can forget a lot in a year that would be useful to your course
  • If you've got a university offer and haven't already agreed to defer your place, you could be putting your place at risk
  • If you don’t get organised, you may end up spending your gap doing nothing but watching TV. Not great for the CV!

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