1. DON’T leave it all to the last minute ⏰

StScreen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.28.18art planning now and enjoy the process. Search for gap year bloggers, gap year courses and reviews online (try www.gooverseas.com ). Make lists of your favourite travel bloggers, vloggers and Instagrammers (we’re @ahacourses, if you were wondering 😀) and follow them, see if it’s something you would enjoy.  And keep your mind open – it is all about broadening your horizons.


This is your chance of a lifetime so discuss it with your parents but don’t expect them to do all the research for you.  Check out www.yearoutgroup.com for different ideas on what you can do during your year with experienced and trusted providers.

2. THINK about your 52 weeks in detail

A whole year means you can do several different things. Consider all your options and decide what will suit you best.  You have time to do that gap year course, visit

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that idyllic beach and fit in some work experience or volunteering, it’s just a matter of planning your time and your budget.

It is also worth thinking about what you want to get out of your gap year.  Universities will be impressed if you have learned transferable skills and matured e.g. critical thinking skills, knowledge of a new subject, experience of a different culture.  They will be less impressed with a tan!  It may be useful to think about how relevant your experiences are to the course you want to do.  And, of course, after a gap year, some people find that they wish to take a different course.

3. BUDGET now, don’t panic later 

Many people pay for gap year travel by working for part of the year, asking for Christmas and birthday presents to be in cash from parents, godparents and grandparents, or

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some may have savings.

There are also scholarships and bursaries to be had if you plan ahead and research your field. AHA have an annual scholarship for a 2 week summer course each year. If you are at an HMC school you can apply for a Bulkeley-Evans gap year scholarship.  Ask your careers department if they know of any scholarships or travel awards that you might apply for. Gateway Gap Year Awards (Murray Edwards) are available for Cambridge applicants “who would benefit significantly from a gap year before embarking on their studies at Cambridge.”

If you have your heart set on a year out, you have to be determined

… see this list of what NOT to do, if you are saving up for your year out.

4. PERSUADE other people a gap year is worth it

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  •  recent research suggest that those who take time off after school come back to academia with much better motivation having explored and developed their identity, built resilience and learned tolerance.
  • YouthTruth research from the US show that 40% of high school students didn’t feel they had developed the skills and knowledge for college-level classes: it doesn’t make sense to start a college/university education if you aren’t ready.
  • explain that this a year out not a year off: you want to continue to learn but not in a classroom and not necessarily for a qualification. This is about learning about you and the world and your place in that world.


5. Ready to start planning? Double check the details 🌍

  • check your passport will be valid for your trips (some countries requirScreen Shot 2016-01-31 at 16.00.42e you to have an additional 6 months validity after the end of your trip)
  • find good travel insurance and always read the small print
  • learn to pack lightly!  Generally the advice is to pack, then remove half the clothes and take twice as much money but this brilliant video will help lighten your load too 👜
  • make sure you know what local customs are: we have found that a large scarf is the perfect cover up for heads, shoulders, legs (when your shorts are too short) for some churches and that only tourists order milky coffee in the afternoon in Italy!


If you’re not quite ready to start planning … you can start dreaming.  Remember, no one ever regrets taking a gap year – they just regret not taking one.

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