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Managing my money for young adults
Managing my money for young adults

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1 Planning a gap year

This photograph shows two people celebrating having climbed a mountain.
Figure 1

Gap years are now very popular. They can involve travelling overseas and perhaps working for the funds you need to cover accommodation, living and transport costs.

Here’s a basic checklist of essentials.

  • Check that you’re going to have sufficient funds to support yourself, particularly if you’re not planning to take on paid work in your time away.
  • Examine the visa requirements for countries you plan to visit, to make sure you have no problems gaining entry.
  • Check that the countries you plan to visit will allow you to work temporarily during your stay.
  • Take out travel insurance (with healthcare cover) to cover you during your time away.
  • Check that you comply with the health guidance of different countries – for example the injections you need before you travel and the medical supplies you’re advised to take with you. Checking this has become even more important in the light of the travel restrictions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. This site will help you: Foreign Travel Advice [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .
  • Make sure that you have the means to keep in touch with your family during your time away.
  • Know who to contact in an emergency in each country you visit.
  • Check that your passport is not only valid for the entire period you’re planning to be overseas but also that it has an expiry date at least six months beyond the planned end date of your travels (entry to certain countries may be blocked if you have less than six months left to expiry on your passport).

A gap year will not have a negative impact on your application to college or university or on your application for a job.

Colleges, universities and employers know that many people will be taking a gap year. In any case, you can secure a university place before starting your gap year and then simply defer starting your studies until the following academic year. If you are planning a gap year, do refer to it in your personal statement in support of your university application. And make sure you explain the reasons for taking it and the skills you’re planning to develop. Also find out if there’s any guidance for applicants planning a gap year in the prospectuses of the universities you’re planning to apply to.

Activity 1  Pros and cons

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Those tips above will help, but the question has to be asked: are gap years a good idea?

What do you think are the potential pros and cons?

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There are a lot of pros. Here are some of them.

  • Having a break before deciding on your next move into education or work can be a help if you’re not clear about what you really want to do after leaving school. A gap year gives you thinking time.
  • Travel might broaden your horizons. It might open up possibilities for where you want to study, work and live in the future.
  • You can earn money – not only to support you during the year but also to give you a financial buffer if you move into further or higher education.
  • The time away from home will help you develop key life skills like managing your money, making travel arrangements and even learning foreign languages. You might also learn to understand and appreciate the cultural differences in different countries.

But there are some cons. Here are a few.

  • Because gap years are so very popular, you might end up being swept into one alongside your social group. The decision should be yours. It should be based on your ambitions and personal readiness.
  • A gap year, by definition, means a delay in starting further or higher education.
  • You’ll need money, at least to begin with, even if you’re planning to work during the year.
  • You might find it daunting to be away from your family and overseas for a long period of time.

If you don’t take a gap year immediately after finishing school you’ll still have the opportunity later in life. A lot of people take a gap year later, typically after finishing further or higher education.