How taking a gap year volunteering can be beneficial to your study

  • Many students worry about taking a gap year thinking that it will look like they have taken a year-long holiday. But what if I told you how it could be beneficial to your further education. Volunteering while taking a gap year from your studies is often used to enrich a student's life and give that sense of adventure you are seeking after studying hard for university or college. However, it is not just beneficial for your sense of self but also for your further education. Here is why!

    What is a gap year?

    Before discussing why a gap year is beneficial to your study, let me give you a better understanding of what a gap year is. By the time you reach college or university, most of your life will have been spent in the educational system. Typically, A gap year is what it says on the tin, an academic year away from a study which traditionally is used to volunteer overseas or within your own country. However, this does not necessarily mean that you have to take a full year.

    Some people volunteer for a few months and then return home to get some life experience in work before returning to their studies. Other people decide to travel the world after spending their time volunteering until they are due back to continue their studies. You will be amazed by what you learn from travelling and what transferable skills you will gain. You have to find the right amount of time for you. It might be that your chosen course to study has multiple intakes a year.

    How exactly can a gap year be beneficial to me before my full-time study?

    A gap year can be taken before starting university or college or during your time there. In this article, we will be focusing on why it is beneficial to take a gap year prior to starting your further education. Please take a look at our post on how a gap year can be advantageous to you during university if you are thinking of taking time out from a course you are studying.

    There are obviously some negatives to taking a gap year prior to commencing your higher educational study such as you will not be starting your chosen courses with your friends, you will be a year older than your classmates and have a year longer to wait for graduation. But I am sure you will agree that the positives below outweigh the negatives.

    Building your resumé

    You might not have been able to get onto that university course you have applied for or got into the college or university of your choice. A gap year, if done correctly can help you make your application stand out from the rest of the pile. Yes, grades count, but admission boards also want to see what your extracurricular activities are and that you are a well-rounded member of the community.  What better way to show that you are an outstanding person than dedicating your time to help others which shows compassion, good ethics, and an open mind. In fact, extracurricular activities such as volunteering are traits that higher education programs are actively seeking.

    One thing I do recommend is that the volunteer program you decide to do is something to do with your desired field of study if you are using it to improve your application.  It is one thing to take a gap year from study, but another thing to prove why this is going to help you in further education. Writing a personal statement about why your gap year is beneficial to your study is really important. Try and take some of the ideas off this post to show that yes you care about the world but here is why it will help me with my study.

    Build academic credits

    Do you need more academic credits to get onto your desired course? Perhaps you need more academic credits to get the job that you want. Well, your gap year can give you academic credit. Some gap year programs have teamed up with universities to provide you with the chance to earn credits by volunteering abroad for a semester. Take a look at a few of your chosen further education providers and see if they can support this. There will be some work that you have to do in addition to your volunteer work. The work will be to show proof of how your gap year has benefited you and how it will further your study. It might be a reflective essay, a piece of research or weekly contact with your teacher.

    It will help you focus on what you want

    Are you a focused person? Do you know that what you are studying is what you ever want to be? Many students will study one area and realise it is not for them and change their direction two or three times at the beginning of their career. A gap year can really help you focus on what you want and in the long run, will cost you less money in fees and time in study.

    On paper, you might want to be a doctor, but after volunteering in a hospital, you might realise this isn’t for you. Volunteer in a few different places and get a feel for exactly what you want to be. A gap year from study will also give you that time out from the pressures of academic life to actually stop and think.

    Learn what is important in life

    Anyone who has gone to college or university will know that you learn a lot in your first year, but you can also get distracted with being newly away from home and let off the leash to discover who you are. It is easy to neglect your studies and really mess up your grades. This means working extra hard for the rest of your education to make up for it or unfortunately leaving higher education altogether. Taking a gap year from study can show you what is essential in life. I’m not saying that you will only focus on your studies entirely and not have any fun, but I bet it will have recharged your batteries and make you want to work hard.

    So not only can a gap year boost your resumé and give you additional credits, but it can also have other benefits. It helps significantly with your personal development and many higher education providers recognise this. It enables you to learn new skills and know what is important in life. It also helps those who are in need of a good adventure while doing something that will beneficial to your further study.

    Most colleges and universities see the benefits of deferred entries, so you can still go ahead and look at getting your place on a course. If this is the route you want to take then make sure you read the deferral policy carefully before applying to make sure you can do this. Another way is to leave applying for your higher education institute for a year (but you will need to do this during your gap year), making sure you have a well written personal statement about your time away. Either way, ensure you enjoy your break from study and make the most of the experience.

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