Ideas for a life-changing gap year

by Anita Naik

With the pandemic affecting University life in 2020/2021, the idea of taking a gap year is currently on the minds of many students. If you're keen to take a year off but don't know where to start, here's how to have a life-changing gap year.

Deferring entry to university

Deferring entry isn't always an easy choice, but all it means is being offered a space on a course, then taking a year out before starting the course. Being able to defer isn't a given, and for many courses, like medicine, you won't be able to do this. However, make contact with university admissions and determine if you can defer and how to do it, so your place for the next university year is guaranteed. Remember, if you defer for the 2021/2022 year, you will still have to have the exam results for your offer by 31 August 2021.

Gain life experience

Many people choose to use their gap year to travel and gain life experience as they go, and this is an ideal way to broaden your outlook and do new and exciting things.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award is a fantastic option for this and offers three progressive levels that lead to a Bronze, Silver and Gold award when completed. All levels involve helping the community/environment, becoming fitter, developing new life skills, planning, training for and completing an expedition and, for Gold only, working with a team on a residential activity.

Gaining an award will give you skills, confidence and something to add to your CV. Beyond your academic achievements, universities like to see evidence of life skills, and the DofE Award is a great way to show this.

If you are 18 and over, you can do your DofE direct and ideas on how to gain your awards range from volunteering, gaining skills in the natural or scientific world and trying your hand at a range of sports.

You can also volunteer abroad with Rayleigh International. Their expeditions equip you with the skills, experience, and connections to be future leaders. You will have the chance to build your skills on an adventure leadership trek, create real, lasting change working with communities on a community project and work on sustainable development projects in remote communities.

Gain work experience

If you're keen to get more real-world experience but don't want to travel in your gap year, work is a good route. Aside from earning money, working for a year can give you a real insight into the career of your choice and the world of work. Again, this route will be hugely beneficial to your CV, and you'll earn money.

There are two routes to consider - an entry-level job or an internship. To find entry jobs look on sites like and Be ready with a CV and a LinkedIn profile.

Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)

Another way to gain life experience is to teach English abroad (or in the UK). For this, you need to be TEFL qualified. This qualification can get you to work in a voluntary organisation or a summer school abroad and help with work visas abroad, so it's worth doing if you want to work and travel worldwide. There are several different TEFL courses, and all can help you gain employment here and abroad and look good on your CV.


If travel isn't on your mind, another brilliant option for a gap year is to upskill in areas that, perhaps, weren't covered at school. This is your chance to learn something you've always wanted to try or may try your hand at something new. Again all these skills can be life-changing, be added to your CV and Ideas include:


Personal development training from public speaking to marketing

Jewellery, painting and photography


Salsa, ballet, Jazz dance

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