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Does a gap experience help students achieve more at university?

Date added: Wednesday 20th July 2016

UK: Year Out Group believes that as part of their career guidance, all young people should have the opportunity to consider a gap year or gap break. With up to 26,000 students dropping out of university after their first year https://www.hesa.ac.uk/stats and falling enrolment expected in the next decade in line with population age estimates, UK universities are likely to be fighting much harder with each other for students. A slowing down of foreign student intake is also a cause for concern. http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Documents/2015/patterns-and-trends-2015.pdf

Photo courtesy of Pod Volunteer

Year Out Group feels that encouraging students to defer or enabling them to access gap experiences whilst at university, will help with retention during a degree programme and students will have more to offer and also to gain, during their study time. However it does require some support to ensure students make the most of any deferral.

Any personal development experience that takes place overseas or in the UK, will remain an important addition to any CV or job application.  Employers value foreign language skills and international cultural awareness but research suggest there is room for development and university life alone cannot be expected to fully address these topics. http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Pages/student-experience-measuring-expectations-and-outcomes.aspx

Students with gap year experience tend to be more confident and purposeful about their direction in life, which not only helps with studies but can also lead to deeper involvement in university life and that of the local community through volunteering, work and enterprise. http://americangap.org/data-benefits.php

More students are now taking opportunities to join short programmes, which can be completed during university holidays, provide valuable experience and will be less of an expense. However a deeper dive into a potential career or experience of another culture requires an extended period of time. A gap year or at least several weeks or months, offers a rich and immersive experience and the learning and impact will be stronger as a result.

The challenges of communicating in a new language, living under different rules and societal norms, exploring and adapting to new environments, helps young people to understand their place in the world and their responsibilities as future leaders in the home, workplace and community. It also gives them space to think about their futures and most will return to the UK more focused and determined to follow their chosen career path or at the very least understand down which paths they do not want to travel.

Year Out Group www.yearoutgroup.org/organisations members offer young people a vast array of opportunities in many destinations across the world and they can also support those looking to mix periods of unstructured time with more purposeful activities including finding paid work. Our website offers advice to anyone thinking of taking a gap experience (short or long), including advice on the sort of questions they should ask of any gap year provider with whom they may consider travelling.

Teachers and careers advisors are welcome to get in touch and ask for supporting information and advice.

The Year Out Group is an association of leading year out organisations that was formed in 1998 to promote the concept and benefits of well-structured year out programmes, to promote models of good practice and to help young people and their advisers in selecting suitable and worthwhile projects. The Year Out Group is a not-for-profit organisation http://www.yearoutgroup.org/ .