09/10/2012 05:21 BST | Updated 09/10/2012 05:26 BST

You Don't Need To Be Rich To Take a Gap Year

The gap year has developed a bit of a stigma as a middle-class cliché. But can the non-wealthy enjoy this rite of passage too?

Taking a year out has developed a bit of a stigma in recent years. The notorious gap yah sketch sums up the mood of a lot of people who believe this rite of passage is reserved for the upper middle classes - who live off the bank of mum and dad. But is this experience really only something you can access if you're from a family that is well-off?

Anyone and everyone

According to Macca Sherifi from this is a big fallacy.

He says: "One of the most common misconceptions about gap years is that they're only for the super-rich. It's such an out-dated stereotype. That was probably once the case in the 90s, but the majority of people who take a gap year these days work extremely hard to afford it. Gap years are for anyone and everyone."

Around 250,000 people from the UK go on a gap year each year and this number is set to rise as people move to improve their CV beyond just academic qualifications.

But how can people who don't have their parents to rely on get the most out of a gap year?

Decide what to do

Can you see yourself teaching English in South America or helping to build a health clinic in Africa? Do you want to learn a language or gain work experience? The choice can be daunting but the amount of time and money you have at your disposal will narrow the options. It is important to try to flesh out a plan to gauge how much your adventure will cost.

Be realistic about the cost

Gap years can cost nothing at all for those that stay at home and choose to work or get an internship and gain experience.

But if you have more ambitious plans to go be a backpacker, volunteer overseas or even work abroad then you will need to have a bit of cash. Find out exactly how much it is going to cost and budget accordingly.

According to the average gap year lasts between six and nine months and costs around £5,000-£7,000, depending on how long you want to travel.

Save up or fundraise

Once you have a general plan and know the cost, it will be easier to have a goal to save towards. A lot of people hold fundraisers but getting some temporary work at home and saving up will work just as well.

Volunteer abroad

Volunteering on projects in other countries can be rewarding. What some might find difficult is to pay to do it!

But there are ways of finding a cheap programme or one that will sponsor you in the form of a bursary. Try looking at charities like Lattitude Global Volunteering and Raleigh International.

They both have funding schemes to make volunteering overseas accessible to everyone.

Look for cheaper options

If all you want is a break and the chance to see as much of the world as possible there are many ways to do it on the cheap. Inter-railing is a fun, inexpensive way of seeing the whole of Europe. You can get a global pass that encompasses 30 countries for £144 at the moment.

You could also keep costs down by travelling to and around cheaper countries rather than the traditional 'gapper' hotspots.

Take a working holiday

Working abroad can be a great experience and can boost your confidence. There are numerous organisations you could approach to help find work and arrange visas in another country. Or you could try to do this yourself to save a bit of money.

Round the World Experts has an Australia Working Holiday package from £1,099 which covers flights, CV review, help finding work as you travel across Australia, Sydney beach tour, information sessions, traveller discount card and 12 months' employment assistance while you are out there. BUNAC also has a range of affordable working abroad options.

You could try teaching English as a foreign language. This usually involves a course to help you to brush up on some English grammar and the classroom skills you will need to teach effectively abroad. The prices can range from £150-£300 but once armed with this accreditation you can secure work in a wide selection of countries.

What's great is that you get the school holidays to travel round the area on the cheap through domestic routes rather than international services.

Shorten the trip

Instead of a whole year off you could reduce the time spent away to save money. So instead of a year or nine months try three or six. This way you can spend some time working at home and save up for your adventure around the world!

Plan things independently

There are advantages to planning your trip through a specialist agency and getting a package gap year - most will offer orientation, training and emergency support once you are out there.

But if you want to keep costs down it is important to try to independently plan as many parts of your trip as you can.

Go in a group

Chances are that a few friends will want a slice of adventure too. Travelling in a pair is cheaper than being on your own, and travelling as a threesome is even better. You will be able to split costs of accommodation and food, and have some company while you travel.

Make the most of it

The enriching experience of a gap year is not only available to the upper echelons of society. But it is important that you do something constructive and worthwhile wherever you may end up for the time you take out. Productive gap years are now seen as a key way to improve your CV. Taking one shows drive and determination and can help your self-confidence. So whether you're backpacking, volunteering overseas, working abroad or all three, make the most of it.