The Costs of a Gap Year
Each year about 250,000 people under 25 go on a gap. Possibly even more graduates would do it if it weren’t for the cost. They’re already lugging three years of student debt, which is enough of a fly in the suncream without spending a year racking up more. But it’s worth scratching this itchy issue of costs a bit further.
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 university.
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, 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 too, and 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 TE FL certificate, where the year might not only pay for itself, but 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 employers valued the skills gappers gained, meaning you are more likely to get a job or get a higher paid one when the gap’s over. That’s why you should see your gap year as an investment. Of course, you could improve your employability by investing
in a postgraduate course instead. Fees for a masters degree typically start around £3k and can easily exceed £10k and that doesn’t include living costs. Suddenly, a gap year doesn’t look so expensive.