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The costs of a gap year


Around a quarter of students take a year out before university. It’s less common to do it afterwards, but in both cases, the graph is heading north. Each year about 250,000 people under 25 go on a gap.

It’s true that many gap year activities cost hundreds, indeed thousands, of pounds. Some only last a few weeks – or days even. It wouldn’t be hard to find yourself the wrong side of £20k after some time with orangutans in Borneo, snowboarding in Denver and going transcontinental on the Orient Express.

That, however, is not what most people do. An expensive project may be part of the equation, but there are cheaper options. A round-the-world plane ticket is about £1,000. If you pick up bar work, fruit-picking, even office temping en route, it may be possible to spend the year far more cheaply than your final year at uni.

Meanwhile, so long as you’re not earning more than £15k in the year, you won’t have to start paying back any Government student loans. Banks, however, may not be so patient about overdrafts though, although most have some kind of slow repayment scheme for graduates.

Although you can buy off-the-shelf gap years, you can create your own. So they cost whatever you decide to spend. There are those that are effectively holiday packages, often to exotic places. Then there are others – like teaching if you have a TEFL certificate – where the year might not only pay for itself, you’ll also be able to save.

And at the end, what do you have to show for it? A Government report in 2004 found that employers valued the skills gappers gained. That means you may be more likely to get a job or get a higher paid one as a result of your  gap. It’s an investment.

Budgeting for a gap:
It’s important to have a budget and stick to it. The main costs are:
The gap year activity: If you’re joining a project, there’s usually a fee to whoever’s providing it. Even if you’re a ‘volunteer’, you’re often expected to pay.
Living expenses: Your fee might include accommodation, maybe even some meals, but clothes? Drinks? Deeply unlikely.

Last updated on: 01 April 2010

Comments posted for this article


I took a gap year before starting uni and had an incredible time, but it's fair to see it was not cheap! I kept my costs down a little by working whilst travelling and you can find schemes to help you do this, such as Smaller Earth's work and travel Australia program: http://www.smallerearth.com/uk/work-and-travel/working-holiday/work-and-travel-plus---australia-294/ Ultimately though you need to weigh up whether you feel justified in the expense for your trip of a lifetime. I wouldn't change my gap year for anything, but I have friends who just went into work for their year out and consequently were on a far more secure financial footing than I was when they started at uni. But everyone's different!

Posted: 12/22/2014 5:45:01 PM

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