Woman smiling holding globe in hands

Gap years

​​​​​​​A year out after finishing school, during your studies or even from work could give you room to think. It's about much more than just travelling - find out if a gap year is for you. 

A gap year is not about taking a year-long holiday. It's what you do with that time that counts. 

Taking a year out is a chance to:

  • reflect on what you've done so far
  • explore the world
  • explore the world of work
  • learn new things
  • experience life

The traditional time to take one is after you finish secondary school. But people also take a gap year 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. 

What you can do in a gap year

A gap year well spent makes a great addition to your CV. Find out about the different options of a gap year.


Seek out new experiences around the world and this could be the best year of your life. Explore places which are relevant to your interests and take the opportunity to get some work or volunteering experience while you're away. 


How to add this to your CV 

For a trip like this you need to be resourceful and build your confidence. On your CV, talk about the skills you learned, challenges you faced and what you learned from the experience. 


Getting some work experience helps you get a foot in the door and make contacts in your industry. You can save money for your upcoming studies. It also gives you a chance to figure out if that career is right for you. Your experience might help you make a decision about what to do next. You can find out more about making the most of your work experience.


How to add this to your CV

Talk about relevant experience or highlight the skills you developed. Make sure you get a reference too.

We've got some helpful information on what skills there are and how you can demonstrate these to employers.


This can take you to some beautiful places or let you help people in your own community. As well as the feel-good factor, it also gives you valuable experience. Pick a placement which lets you develop some of the skills you'll need in the future. You can find out more about volunteering opportunities


How to add this to your CV

This experience can help you stand out from the crowd. It shows you're passionate and dedicated. Talk about how the experience helped you develop. 


You can try short courses, learn a language or get your driver's licence.

If you did not get the results you wanted in school, use the year to fill in the gaps.


How to add this to your CV 

It shows an employer you're willing to learn and have taken the time to get the extra qualifications which could put you ahead of other candidates. 

Why do a gap year

Advantages of a gap year

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
  • adding experience to 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 college or university


Thinks to consider about a gap year

These are just a few examples of what to think about when taking a gap year:

  • depending on what you want to do, it can be expensive - make sure you look at finances
  • 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, university or work while you're away you could feel out of step with them

Coming back from your gap year

Getting back into the swing of things can be hard after an amazing year out.

Going to college or university

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 have lots of information about renting for the first time.

Looking for a job​​​​​​​

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 2 years (sometimes longer) after you’ve left. Talking to them could help you figure out your next steps.