Planning a gap year with your child

Print preview

At a glance

Advice on making plans so your child can benefit from a break between school and further education.

Why have a year off before going to university?

More young people than ever now take a gap year, around 12 months a year away from formal study at the end of school or sixth form college, before starting a degree or higher education course.

A gap year gives your child the chance to have time off from academic work so that they can broaden their horizons by experiencing 'the real world'. This might help your child to focus on what he or she wants to achieve when they do return to further education. A gap year can also boost a CV, provided your child achieved something positive during their time out.

If your child has shown interest in taking time out spend time talking about what they might achieve by taking a year off - plans should include a focus or goal.

If your child wants to apply to university and then defer entry for one year you should check if their chosen college or university will accept this type of application. Alternatively, your child can apply to university after A levels during their gap year.

Popular gap year activities

TravellingThis is the main reason why young people take a gap year, but it’s expensive to travel. Your child could work while travelling but that can be difficult to organise. An alternative is to stay in the UK to work and save up for six or nine months, then use the savings to travel for another three to six months.
VolunteeringYour child can volunteer in the UK or abroad. Volunteering can give your child broader choices and experiences than the option of paid work at this stage of life. Volunteering can also give a genuine experience of different cultures and communities.
Learning a new skillThis might involve something your child has not chosen to study at university, but might benefit them in later life – for example, learning a foreign language.

Making sure your child survives a gap year of travel

Encourage your child to properly research their choice of activity for the gap year. If they want to travel, learn as much as possible about the different countries and cultures they will encounter.

Two top tips for travel safety:

  • Make sure your child has insurance
  • Keep copies of important documents such as visas, insurance policies and bank card details in case they're stolen

Making sure you survive your child's gap year

If your child is staying at home during their gap year, establish new ground rules. Your child should be treated as another adult in your house now. You both need to rethink what that means in terms of behaviour, such as doing chores and being responsible for money.

If your child is travelling, talk about how you're going to stay in touch and agree on an approach that you both find reassuring. But don't forget that young people can forget to call home, which doesn't necessarily mean that something terrible has happened to your child.

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.