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Deciding whether to take a gap year

You may choose to take a year out (gap year) before starting university, to enhance your CV, gain experience or learn new skills.

backpacking students at a station
Gap years are a great opportunity to travel and get experience before starting university.

Deciding whether to take a gap year

While most students start their degree shortly after receiving their qualifications, you can choose to take a year out before starting. This could be to travel, to take a break, to gain work experience or for a combination of reasons.

The decision of whether to take a gap year is an individual one. You may be keen to start your degree straight away and to begin to experience everything that goes with being a university student. Or you might like the fact that a gap year can be a good opportunity to do something different for a year, to gain experiences which will help you to strengthen your university application, and perhaps earn some money to help fund your studies. If you know you want to come to Bath University but haven’t decided exactly which course is right for you, a gap year could help you decide.

Many of our departments are happy for applicants to take a gap year before joining a course, but it’s best to check before making your final decision. In some cases a gap year could really enhance your application, especially if it allows you to gain work experience related to your chosen area of study. But it's worth remembering that not all of our courses accept candidates for deferred entry and some admissions tutors may have a preference for applicants who do not take a gap year, so it's essential you discuss your plans with your chosen department before making a final decision.

Taking a gap year: when to apply for university

If you decide you'd like to take a gap year, you can either indicate you wish to defer your entry when applying for university this year, or you can delay your application until next year when you'll have received your exam results.

Deferred entry

You can indicate in your UCAS application if you want to defer your start date, so you can apply whilst in your final year of school or college. This will allow you to benefit from the input of teachers and advisors during your application process, and will hopefully allow you to gain a university place at the earliest opportunity and reduce uncertainty during your gap year.

If you do apply for a deferred place and are successful in your application, it's essential you keep in touch with us during your gap year, and are able to receive important information (by email or post) from us. If you are going to be out of email contact you will need to give permission for someone to communicate with us on your behalf.

Applying after results day

Alternatively, you can delay applying to university until after you have received your results, during your gap year. This allows you to apply for courses that are in line with your grades and could make the application more straightforward.

However, you'll need to consider the practicalities of making an application whilst on a gap year, especially if you'll be abroad for an extended period. You may be unable to attend departmental open days and you won't have the benefit of support from teachers or other local advisors.

Personal statements

Whether applying for deferred entry or applying during your travels, you should mention the gap year in your personal statement, with details on how you are using the year productively and the skills and personal qualities you feel you'll gain or have gained.

Finding work experience

Getting work experience during your year out can be really beneficial. There are a number of useful online resources for finding relevant work experience:

  • The Year in Industry is an organisation providing gap year placements for students in engineering, science, IT, e-commerce, business, marketing, finance and logistics
  • Student Ladder has information on a range of gap year placement opportunities with firms such as Accenture, the Bank of England, Deloitte, and KPMG
  • Prospects advertise a range of work experience opportunities
  • the website lists UK voluntary opportunities with organisations involved in providing health and social care services in the community. These can be especially valuable if you're applying for health and social care related degrees

Using a gap year to develop your skills

A gap year can be a great opportunity for you to develop skills that will help you to succeed on your course. Providing evidence of how you've developed skills relevant to your chosen subject can help strengthen your university application.

If you've taken a gap year, we would expect you to have developed and enhanced your existing skills during the year. For example:

  • if you are applying for a foreign language course, you may have spent time in a country where your chosen language is spoken in order to improve your fluency in the language and develop an understanding of the country’s culture
  • if you are applying for business courses you may have started your own small business, to put your learning into practice
  • if you are applying for computing courses you may have offered your skills to a local business or charity, in order to gain practical experience of developing a website or web content for a client
  • if you have taken the ‘traditional’ gap year option of travelling, this will have provided you with opportunities to become involved in voluntary works or projects, which will have helped you develop a range of key skills, such as interpersonal skills, communication skills and team building skills.
  • You may have studied a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) related to the area you want to study at university. Find out about MOOCs offered by the University of Bath