The importance that employers now attach to gap years is changing as competition for jobs increases, and graduates have to work harder than ever to differentiate themselves from a clutch of equally qualified applicants.
Increasingly gap years are about improving job prospects with CV enhancing skills, as work experience becomes an increasingly vital part of making students attractive to employers.
Whilst parent funded trips are fine for providing a break from exams or encouraging independence and maturity, the value from an employer’s perspective is showing initiative in raising the money to fund it, or spending the time gaining work experience relevant to a degree or future career. It is now therefore really important to incorporate a relevant voluntary job or work experience element into a gap year to show motivation, commitment and focus.
For those who are undecided what to do a gap year can be invaluable, and provide a vital breathing space in which to decide if university is the route they want to go down. After years of study at school, the prospect of more studying can be anathema, but to take a year out to grow up, have a break from exams and reassess aims and objectives can be just what they need. Maybe the ideal balance is to spend time doing both – work experience to confirm where future interests lie and show focus and commitment when applying for a job, and travel at the end for the sheer enjoyment.
Students should also watch out that they don’t pay too much tax in their gap year. It is usually assumed they will earn above the tax-free limit and so tax is deducted under the PAYE system. This will also apply if they work abroad too. They should fill in a tax return to recover the tax overpaid. Most foreign countries will have a dual tax agreement with the UK, which in practice means a student will still have tax deducted at source. However they can then offset the tax deducted abroad against their tax assessment in the UK when they fill in a tax return. If there is no dual agreement and they have had tax deducted abroad, then they can claim “unilateral relief” on their tax return.
Without your guidance and protection a gap adventure is your child’s first opportunity to see the world for themselves, on their terms. They make their own choice of destinations, who they travel with, and what they do – often with only the first couple of nights accommodation booked, after which they seem to enter complete free flow.
It is worrying enough when, with very limited independent holiday experience, your child announces they want to go off traveling to far flung places. And then for some a couple of months experiencing the well worn routes of Asia and Australia isn’t adventurous enough, so they decide they are going to do something at the extremes of super risky – like cycle from one end of South America to the other, alone of course ( yes it has been done!) which is enough to throw most mothers into panic hyperspace.
For a novice backpacker or gap traveller one of the best things you can do for them is to book them onto a personal safety course. Which course will depend on what they are going to do.
Gap students are not the most attractive insurance prospect – and they have a habit of indulging in risky sports like bungee jumping too. Make sure they have appropriate insurance before they travel in case they go for the adrenalin rush option.