Planning a gap year

Taking a ‘gap year’ - a year out of studying to do something else, can do wonders for your skills, confidence and CV. Many people take a gap year before starting college or university, but you could take one at any time

What to do during a gap year

There are many thins you can choose to do during a gap year, such as:

  • volunteer abroad
  • do some work experience in Northern Ireland to build up your skills
  • see a bit of the world

Taking a gap year is a good way of gaining more experiences before going on to further study at university.

It could be your first time away from school or college with no teachers or assignments to worry about. If you choose to work, it might be the first time you've worked full-time.

Whatever you do, taking a gap year could be a good way to help your confidence and to become more independent before university.

Boost your career prospects

Even if getting a job seems a long way off, taking a gap year can also look good on your CV. Potential employers see that you have spent time broadening your horizons and learning new skills.

Volunteering for an industry or organisation you would like to get into in the future, shows employers that you are dedicated to advancing your career.

If you want to return to college or university, a gap year shows that you are committed to your education. You may find that you approach learning in a different way after a year out.

Gap year options

Working and travelling abroad

You may want to go travelling and sample life in other countries during your gap year. Many tour operators run gap year trips that visit as many places as possible in a year.

If you haven't saved enough cash, you could work your way around the world or even teach English as a foreign language. You may need to have certain types of visa to work in some countries, so check before you go.

Working in Northern Ireland

You might want to spend the year working in Northern Ireland and saving money for your future studies. You could get a regular full-time job, or maybe some temporary or part-time work that still lets you have some time off to enjoy your year out.

You may also want to split your gap year.

For example, you can:

  • spend the first six months working and earning money
  • then, use this money to pay for your travels in the second half of the year

Ask a careers adviser about schemes that let you spend your gap year working in an industry related to your studies or future career plans.


Many organisations offer young people the chance to volunteer in different countries around the world.

Opportunities range from helping out in school classrooms to volunteering in children's summer camps. Volunteering takes dedication and hard work, but it is a unique chance to experience other cultures.

If you want to do your bit but would prefer to stay closer to home, there are many projects in Northern Ireland that involve volunteers.

Gap year safety

If you choose to go abroad for a gap year, it's important to do lots of research before you go.

Knowing about the culture and customs of your destination means you're better prepared to deal with any strange situations while you're there. It can also help you avoid breaking any local laws by mistake and keep you safe.

More information is available from the Caroline's Rainbow Foundation website.

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