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Should I take a gap year?

by Hannah O'Brien May 28, 2012

​It has been reported that less undergraduates are planning to take 12 months off to travel or do voluntary work this summer. The study, conducted by High Flighers Research, was based on a survey of nearly 18,000 students across 30 universities in the UK. It found that just 12% were planning on taking a gap year (and reported that 17% had taken a gap year in 2009 and 20% in 2001).This is the lowest percentage on record and down by two-thirds in a decade.

The gap year has always been a popular choice, in fact after quickly surveying my own colleagues at Freshminds, I was not that surprised to find that 50% of a sample of 20 had spent a year travelling or working abroad. So why are numbers at an all time low? Is the gap year dying out? The study revealed that most students are sacrificing a gap year because of mounting competition to find a well-paid job in the economic downturn. The average graduate applies for seven jobs before finishing their final year of university. According to the same study, the average undergraduate will owe £19,400 this year, rising to around £30,000 for those taking degrees at some London universities. A quarter of students also have short-term loans or credit card bills that they need to pay off within two or three years. Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research said “The proportion of final year students planning to take time-off or go travelling after their studies is at an all-time low and record numbers of students are now opting to research their career options in their first or second year at university, rather than leaving job hunting until the final six months.”

In this economy, a great way to increase your chances to gain a permanent role is to beef up your CV with commercial experience and increase your business acumen and skillset. Who said you can’t do this overseas? Taking a gap year nowadays doesn’t just involve picking fruit on a farm or beach hopping around a hot country for a year. Why not go abroad to brush up on those rusty language skills – come back and change your fluency level on your CV from ‘intermediate’ to ‘business fluent’. Or choose to spend a year completing a commercial internship in a country with an economy that’s growing and has avoided a recession (The Australian economy has avoided recession and is "through the worst" of the global financial crisis). For those who have always dreamed of taking a year abroad before launching themselves into a full time graduate role, don’t let these figures immediately put you off, do your research – and it could be that the skills you develop on your gap year will help improve your CV and open your career options for when you return.

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