Your 2021 Gap Year Guide

A gap year is often considered an important rite of passage in the life of a teen. It’s a useful time for exploration and maturation, and can offer a moment to breathe in between the academic pressures of school and university.

With things beginning to open up after an extremely turbulent year and a half, more of you than ever might be considering taking a gap year. But the biggest question of all will undoubtedly be: how should you spend it? 

In this blog post, our team explores all the options available for those planning on taking a 2021-2022 gap year – including all the information you (and your family) will need, and our suggestions on what you can do to make it a huge success.

Reasons for taking a gap year

The choice to take a gap year will always be a deeply personal one. It could be driven by a desire to try or to learn something new, or it could be taken as a chance to build self confidence and maturity. There are a lot of useful skills and experiences that can be gained from the independence of a year out, whatever the circumstances.

Covid has certainly thrown up a few extra reasons for taking a year out before starting studies. If you were previously shielding, or caring for someone who was, you may be wanting time to re-adjust and catch up on things you may have missed. If that’s the case, heading off to university in September may feel too soon. If a student has a place to start university in September but does not want to take it up for the above reasons, it’s important to get in touch with admissions tutors as soon as possible to discuss options.

Owing to disruptions to exams this year, and the teacher-based grading system, some students might find themselves disappointed by their A Level grades. If this is the case, it’s certainly worth considering taking a year out to sit A Levels in the Autumn of 2021 or Summer of 2022.

Deferring a university place

Making the choice to defer a university place, for whatever reason, should not be taken lightly. Not all universities will permit students to defer without a valid medical reason. Some courses – such as medicine – don’t permit students to defer at all. 

It’s certainly risky to abandon a confirmed offer, as there is no guarantee that a student will be accepted a second time around if reapplying in 2022. A large number of deferrals during the pandemic mean that competition for places are likely to be tougher over the next couple of years. 

Things you could do on a 2021-22 gap year

1. Get uni ready

If a student does not receive the A Level grades they need to apply to their dream university, there are options! Exam resits can be taken in November 2021, or if more time is needed to prepare, in the summer of 2022. A solid study plan will need to be followed, involving regular past paper practice

A year out is also a good chance to boost a UCAS application by taking online courses, learning new skills (such as languages or coding), and reading widely.

2. Get work experience 

Gap years are great opportunities to dip a toe into the world of work. Even though the job market is precarious right now, companies are still looking for support from interns and work experience students. Thanks to a rising number of ‘virtual internships’ – which can be completed from home –  being offered by companies in the UK and abroad, it’s possible to find work experience in lots of different places.  

Find more advice on virtual internships here.

3. Volunteer locally

Volunteering is a staple gap year activity, but since international travel remains unpredictable this year, it makes sense to offer to help closer to home

A little research into options will be sure to present many opportunities – ranging from working in a care home (ideal for future medical students) to supporting a local MP (perfect for future politics students). 

For students who might be interested in becoming teachers themselves, volunteering as a tutor or at a school homework club is a really valuable way to give back to the community whilst building transferable skills.

4. Earn money

Large parts of a typical gap year are often spent earning money to use for university or travelling. But with the pandemic having made the job market a more difficult place than normal, saving some cash is easier said than done at the moment. 

However, staying alert and making regular enquiries should eventually pay off. Restaurants, bars and cafes will need extra staff as restrictions continue to ease, as will supermarkets and shops. Do not underestimate the value of service and retail sector employment, as they can teach valuable lessons about professionalism and customer service

Other possible employment opportunities include childcare, cleaning and call centre operation.

5. Don’t write off travelling

Despite the obvious limitations, travelling is not off the cards completely. Many countries are now actively encouraging tourists to visit, and, as vaccinations continue, the UK is frequently updating and relaxing its travel restrictions too. 

Try to keep plans as flexible as possible, and always check that any bookings made are refundable. Bear in mind that visiting quieter, more rural areas will be safer than big cities and tourist hotspots.

Keep up to date on the latest travel advice on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.

We hope this guide has helped to reassure students and families that, despite the ongoing pandemic,  2021 still holds numerous opportunities and pathways for young people. Maintaining a positive and proactive approach is the route to success, so go and make the most of this once in a lifetime experience

Are you planning on taking a gap year in 2021? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch by messaging us on social media: @SaveMyExams on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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