Planning a Sabbatical Year

by Jules on November 19, 2013

For the past 40 or so years, students at varying stages of their educational pathway have taken a sabbatical – also known as a gap year.

And although it remained a relatively rare thing to do for many years, in 2013, recent research shows that more and more young people are choosing to defer their entry to university (or sometimes college) to take a year away.

How many take a year out?

There are no reliable fixed statistics, but research for 2012 showed that on average, 7% of UCAS applicants decided to put off their entry to university for a year. As tuition fees are now hitting people harder than ever, it’s likely that this figure will grow. Latest estimates put the figure at around 2.5 million youngsters choosing to take a year out in 2012.

The benefits for taking a sabbatical are myriad, whether it’s for work experience, a creative endeavour or, as is most common, to travel and experience working and living in other countries. All of this can bring huge benefits to students’ mindsets and abilities and give them an edge when they return to their studies.

Taking a year out from education can also crystallise life plans and allow people the chance to have the space to really consider where their future should lie.

Financing the sabbatical

Finance is one of the most important areas to consider when it comes to the gap year, particularly if you are going travelling with no plans to work. Depending on the way you structure your gap year, this can end up quite pricey.

There are organisations all over the world that offer gap year experiences, usually in a voluntary capacity. These range from wildlife and animal welfare projects to internships at companies across the globe.

Plenty of research is needed if you are considering going on one of these organised gap year activities. These can be extremely beneficial as they are safe, well organised and often cover your board and food in exchange for voluntary work.

However, on average, 20% of parents find themselves stumping up an average cost of £763 per child to fund them through their gap year placement. Only 10% of gap years are fully funded by the young person and, rather depressingly, figures show that the average gap year can cost up to around £4,000, making it a seemingly impossible luxury for many youngsters.

It’s all in the planning

If you know you want to take a year out, for whatever reason, put the legwork in and you will benefit greatly.

Firstly, decide where you want to go and how you want to use your time during your year off. It’s best to try and include something that will further your degree or study programme when you go back to university or further studying.

Begin budgeting strictly – the more money you can save before you go the better. You may feel that there is no way you can save any, but sitting down and working out a proper budget can show many surprising ways to save. There are accounts out there that can actually help you stay in control of your finances, like the thinkmoney Personal Account.

See if there are any ways you can raise money for your adventure and look into all the different organisations that can help you volunteer and work abroad. If you are not planning to work while away then it’s more important than ever that you have a decent sized financial buffer to fall back on. No matter how carefully you plan your budget route around the world, you have to plan for unforeseen circumstances, for example, if you become ill and need to come back home you will need to fully understand how much this could cost.

Gap years worldwide

The UK was an early adopter of the sabbatical year for young people and the rate of youngsters packing their bags and heading off for an adventure stays at a steady 7%. In Australia, 11% of young people take the chance while they can to experience more of the world, while in the US it’s only really just catching on.

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