Possible sources of income in addition to your student funding.
Taking a gap year
- One possible source of earnings to consider prior to going to university is a gap year – another is sponsorship.
- Taking a year out is attractive to many students, whether to gain experience, to earn money or both. Circumstances might dictate that the opportunity to spend a year working whilst travelling may not come again and it is much easier to get a temporary work visa when you are young.
- There are essentially four main possibilities: cultural exchanges and courses, expeditions, volunteering, and structured work placements. These can be here in the UK or overseas and some could require considerable funding by you whilst others would pay a wage.
- You need to question your own motives and means before embarking on a year out – the reasons for taking a gap year seem to be shifting from solely an opportunity for personal development to more one to boost the bank balance ahead of becoming a student.
- This understandable short-term expediency needs to be carefully measured against the somewhat longer-term but less tangible benefits of a placement, here or overseas, of real service to the community, but perhaps with less monetary reward.
- The government wants to encourage voluntary work, particularly for gap year students, and has recently established a charity to develop the range of such opportunities both here and overseas. The various projects offer training, a weekly allowance, help with accommodation and even an accreditation option (see www.vinspired.com, an independent charity based in England; and also Volunteering England, Volunteer Scotland, Volunteering Wales and Volunteering Now in Northern Ireland).
- These days, university selectors take careful note of extracurricular experience and interests alongside good exam grades and generally support a gap year but utter occasional reservations for those planning to study the mathematical sciences. Employers, too, operating increasingly in a global economy, look more and more to the development of self-reliance and teamwork skills and expertise beyond academic performance and class of degree, skills often developed through a gap year.
- Work placements might be structured as, for example, with the Year in Industry Scheme (www.yini.org.uk), or casual. Both volunteering and work placements provide invaluable experience to put on your CV. The National Association of Student Employment Services (NASES) offers lots of useful information about work and job opportunities.
- Some firms, particularly the big supermarket chains, offer continuing part-time employment to their school employees when they go away to university.
- They are also guardians of the student interest, abiding by Codes of Practice which regulate such things as minimum wages and maximum hours worked in term (typically 15 hours a week so as to avoid adverse effect on studies). This is necessary because there is growing evidence that part-time work beyond this level lowers academic attainment.
- Getting on for half of all first year undergraduates take a job in term-time bringing in an average of £85 for a 13-hour week. Any income you earn by working part-time will not normally affect your entitlement to loans and bursaries.
- Some students use their expertise to good effect as web designers, tutors or healthcare workers but most do casual work in retail stores, restaurants, bars and call centres, or find part-time or casual work in the university itself.
- Many organisations are also interested in what students like and how they think and are willing to pay to find out. Others appoint brand managers on campus to promote their goods and services. Universities, too, frequently involve their students in market research, fundraising amongst their alumni or as ambassadors in schools and colleges.
- Most universities have a student employment office run by their careers service or the students' union and they make a welcome contribution to the local economy. This is hardly surprising given the enormous range of skills and knowledge residing in any student community.
- The University Profiles include information on the availability of part-time work at each institution.
- Many UK universities also offer placement years, year in industry programmes or sandwich courses integrated into their degree courses. These can be a great experience and good for graduate employability. Such programmes normally take place between the penultimate and final years of a degree. An annual salary of £13–15,000 for a sandwich/placement year is about the average across the UK.
- Vacations, too, offer an opportunity to earn cash whilst developing skills for your CV.
- Such work experience can be casual, formalised as a placement or intership via an organisation such as www.step.org.uk, or as part of a sponsorship programme.
- Some areas of the UK offer placements or internships over the easter or summer periods (see, for example, www.graduateadvantage.co.uk).
- Banks are well disposed towards today's university students in the certain knowledge that many will be tomorrow's high-earning professionals.
- There is fierce competition amongst them for your custom so weigh up carefully what they are offering and don't be unduly swayed by the opening gift of discounted driving lessons, an MP3 player or a rail card.
- Banks are sympathetic to the student cause and will generally permit modest overdrafts on your account to ease cash flow problems without pain.
- It pays – literally – to shop around for the best offers when transferring or opening your account. It is worth checking advice on websites such as wwww.moneysavingexpert.com.
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