Your gap year questions answered…

A decade ago, you might have been justified to react in horror to the prospect of your absent-minded offspring shuffling off around-the-world with a backpack full of dreams – but thankfully, gap-years have come a long way since then.

Refreshed and ready to learn

A structured, properly organised gap-year can mean students arriving at university refreshed and focused, and research shows they are much more likely to complete their chosen course than drop-out half-way through.

Some may take time to readjust to academic life but former “gappers” are generally more responsible and socially conscious, which allows them to take a mature outlook on their studies and make a greater contribution to their course.

Once their studies are completed they will also find their CVs more appealing to graduate employers, who appreciate that those with a gap-year experience are more likely to adjust quickly to the working environment and deliver results.

Employers admit that they actively seek to recruit those who have taken a structured gap-year because they are more likely to have developed key skills such as teamwork, project management, risk assessment, languages and communication skills.

What to do

The beauty of the modern gap-year is the amount of choice and variety on offer: each gap-year is as unique as the individual participant, and each is an opportunity to create a tailored programme to meet their own personal ambitions.

Knowing her own personality, her interests, strengths and weaknesses will help your daughter make the right decisions. Is she someone who likes to get stuck into something for a while or does she want to be on the move a lot?

If she’s not confident about coping alone with unfamiliar situations she might want a more structured, group setting. On the other hand if your daughter knows she needs time away from the crowds, she will probably want to build in some independent travel.

The most popular choice of activity for a gap or career break is volunteering, with teaching placements in particular having risen by 20% in the last few years.

Maybe she is particularly concerned about the state of the world and would like to do her bit environmentally or contribute to helping disadvantaged people? The possibilities are endless and many gappers end up constructing a programme that combines several elements.

Structure and planning

A gap-year is not for everyone, and it should not be considered a holiday. Youngsters should understand that they will only get the most out of the trip if they embark with commitment, responsibility and an open mind. If undertaken lightly, a gap-year is an easy opportunity to waste.

They should not drift into a gap-year and expect it to be a positive, worthwhile experience: the key is detailed research and careful planning, to enable you both to make an informed decision and chose an opportunity that best suits individual needs and interests. Websites like and reference books such as the gap-year guidebook can be valuable in providing useful, informative and unbiased advice.

It doesn’t matter where they are going or what they plan to do, there are some basics that everyone needs help to organise. Some, like passports, visas, medical kits and insurance cover, simply can’t be glossed over if the trip is to go smoothly.

It will of course be something of a step into the unknown for you both, but with proper planning the chances are that your daughter will be rewarded with an exciting, challenging, valuable and enjoyable set of experiences that could, and probably will, change their life forever.

For more information and unbiased advice to all those considering working, volunteering or studying at home and abroad visit or


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