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Should I take a gap year?

Updated on September 18, 2014

You could travel during a gap year.

What is a Gap Year?

A gap year is a year that some students "take off" between high school and college. During this time, they do not attend school but do engage in other fulfilling activities. Taking the year off allows students to accomplish goals outside a formal education setting and to gain real-world experience. Students who take a gap year often say they feel more mature, more independent, and better prepared for college that students who go straight from high school to university.

Take a Break from School

A gap year isn't a vacation, but it's time off from doing what you've done for the past twelve years: go to school. The gap year can be a refreshing change of pace and offer perspective on what it means to get an education. After taking a year off, you may find you're more excited about returning to school and you might even feel that you have a better sense of direction.

Improve Your College Application

Many students who take a gap year have already been accepted to college and have deferred admission in order to take the year off. But not every student is accepted to the college they want to attend. If your college application could use improvements because of issues during your high school career, a gap year is a great way to prove yourself as the student/person you know you can be! Working or volunteering are typical paths of gap year students, but you could also take classes at a community college to show you can work hard and get good grades.

Save Money

If you think you will be financially stressed during your first year of school and don't want to spend most of your freshman year working, a gap year can help you save money for expenses. This is also an opportunity to obtain real-world work experience in a field you are curious about. The gap year can also save you money in the long run by offering clarity about the field you want to study and the maturity to complete school in timely manner. A survey of 280 gap year students conducted by the authors of The Gap Year Advantage, found that the gap year influenced 60% of students about their major and future career.

Gain Experience, See the World

Another reason to take a gap year is to get real-world experience -- in a way that is often free or inexpensive. This may be one of the few times in your life when you're relatively free of commitments, so it's a particularly great time to travel.

Let's look at some popular gap year opportunities. The AmeriCorps, a US volunteer program, offers positions for gap year students. The program provides a stipend, health care benefits, and scholarship money. It's also popular for gap year students to volunteer abroad. Volunteer abroad programs, such as the International Cultural Youth Exchange and Cross-Cultural Solutions, accept gap year students.

Looking for more gap year ideas? This web-site from Yale University can also direct you towards gap year programs.

If you were to take a gap year, what would be your main goal?

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