Gap years

A year out after finishing school, during your studies or even from work could give you room to think. And it’s about much more than just travelling. Is a gap year for you?

A page has 'Gap' scribbled on it, along with 'Cambodia' and 'Thailand'. A typed page reads 'Gap year? Part-time job?'

A gap year isn’t about taking a year-long holiday. It’s what you do with that time that counts. It’s a chance to reflect on what you’ve done so far, explore the world – or the world of work – learn new things and experience life. 

The traditional time to take one is after you finish high school. But people also take a gap during their studies, in between graduating and starting work, or even as a career break.

They’re not for everyone though. We’ve pulled together some information to help you decide if it’s right for you. 

Why do it?

Gap years have lots of advantages. Such as:

  • Doing things you might never have time for otherwise
  • Meeting lots of people – they could be useful contacts in the future
  • Getting experience, whether it’s of work, volunteering, travel or life. This can all go on your CV
  • Learning a new skill
  • Time to think about what you really want to do next
  • Building your confidence and coming back feeling ready for new challenges
  • Making some money before you start uni or college

But, there are a few things to think about

  • Depending on what you want to do, it can be expensive. Make sure you weigh up the costs
  • You might find it hard to go back to studying after your break
  • You need to take the time to organise it or you might not get the most from the experience
  • If your friends move on to college, uni or work while you’re away you could feel out of step with them

What next?

Come back to earth with a bump after an amazing year out? Getting back into the swing of things can be hard.

In some ways it’s easier if you’ve taken a gap year before going to university or college. You’ll have a whole new routine to get used to, so throwing yourself into that can help. Meet people, sort out your class schedule and if you’re moving away, make sure you know where you’re going to live. Young Scot has a handy guide for students who are renting for the first time.

If you’re coming back from a break between studying and working, you might feel like you’re out of the loop. Try to keep up-to-date with things that are happening in your industry. Start looking for opportunities and applying for jobs while you’re still on your gap – our Getting a job section will help. Look at your network and see who you can meet up with when you return. They might be able to connect you with jobs or other contacts that can help.

Remember, you can go back to your university careers adviser for at least two years (sometimes longer) after you’ve left. Talking to them could help you figure out your next steps.