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A Gap Year Definition. Learn What is a Gap Year and Some Reasons Students May Take One

Updated on January 25, 2013
What is a Gap Year?
What is a Gap Year? | Source

The Gap Year

Gap Year is something that I've recently had to learn about. The idea of gap year began in Europe. It has become popular in many European countries, especially England. Though the idea of a gap year has reached America it has not yet become a widely known.

What is a Gap Year?

You may be wondering "What is a Gap Year?" The idea of a Gap Year is simply taking a year off between finishing high school and starting college. Rather than go straight to college students can take a year to do other activities. There are many reasons that a student might want to take a gap year. Though parents may fear that a delay in education could be hazardous to a child's future there are also many reasons that taking a gap year can actually enhance a students prospects.

What Are Some Reasons for Taking a Gap Year?

  • Lowering stress that a student feels from study.

    Many people believe that students feel a lot of stress from the pressure of getting good grades in school. Students just finishing high school have just completed twelve years of studying hard to get the highest grades they could achieve. The feeling of having just completed something important in their life is also mixed with the daunting aspect of having to study hard for another four years. Many students could benefit from a break in between to lesson the amount of pressure and stress that they may feel.

  • The opportunity to travel abroad.

    For some students a gap year is seen as an opportunity to travel to other countries and see parts of the world they may not otherwise have a chance to see. This is important because after completing college most students begin the journey toward finding a job. Once they've begun their career they may feel that the opportunity to travel has been lost. The down side to this is that travel could be expensive unless the students find ways to offset the costs.

  • Doing volunteer work.

    Students might take a gap year to do volunteer work. This may be with a volunteer organization within their own country or it might be with an organization that works abroad. Students could work with underprivileged children. They could help build schools, churches, homes or hospitals in poor or underdeveloped countries in Africa. Volunteering gives the students a chance to do some good in the world. It also has the advantage of looking good on a resume when they begin looking for that first job after college. Volunteering may also be a way that the student can offset the cost of travel. There will likely still be out-of-pocket expenses but these will likely be lower than if the student were traveling alone.

  • Working Abroad.

    Another option that students may consider is working abroad for a year. A few years ago I met someone who told me about his experiences working for a year on a vineyard in Italy before finishing college. In my travels in China I've met two young men from England who were spending a year teaching English in an underdeveloped area of China before they returned home to attend college. Working in a foreign country can provide many of the same benefits as volunteering. Working for a year may not only offset the cost of travel but completely pay for it.

  • Pursuing other dreams.

    Students could also use a gap year as a chance to pursue other dreams. If a student is weighing the decision between going to school to become an engineer or doing something that is not as secure such as attempting to become an actor then gap year could offer a valuable compromise. The student might take a year offer to pursue that dream of acting. If at the end of a year they have been unsuccessful in their acting pursuits then they can return to school without having to wonder what might have been.

  • A chance to see America.

    Some students may laugh at the thought of traveling overseas. They may not be able financially to take a trip to another country. The prospect of working in a foreign country for a year may seem daunting to them. Another option would be to spend a year traveling across country with friends to visit major American cities and explore everything that America has to offer from one coast to the other. The major expense here is going to be gasoline and hotel rooms. With a group of friends traveling together these costs could be reduced.

How Can A Gap Year Be Beneficial to a Student's Career?

The benefit to a person's career depends largely on what they do during their gap year. Obviously there is no career benefit to sitting on a couch and playing video games all year. However the more constructive possibilities would lead to potential benefits. Students who work abroad or who participate in volunteer activities can list these things on a resume. These activities look good because they show a depth of character, interests in community and even an willingness to step outside of their personal comfort zone. A potential employer might be impressed by the students involvement with a charitable organization. Even better, a potential employer may even have been involved in the same organization.

Should You Take a Gap Year?

Gap Year probably isn't for everyone. Some students may feel that they want to get their school work finished as quickly as possible. For these students a gap year would only be delaying them from finishing their school work. A student who feels this way will prefer to go straight to college.

Gap year is a good idea for someone who has a sense of adventure. A person who wants to see a little more of the world before going to college should take a gap year. Someone who feels like they'd enjoy helping others would gain for joining a volunteer organization during gap year. Students who feel like they want an education that can not be found solely in the dusty halls of academia but rather in the world beyond where knowledge is found in seeing and doing would benefit from a gap year. Students who want to see in life what they would be studying from books might enjoy taking a gap year. A person should take a gap year if they have the means to and they believe that they would benefit from the experience.

Copyright Notice

© Copyright 2012. Wesley Meacham- This article is copyright protected and is the property of Wesley Meacham. All images in this article, unless otherwise stated, are the property of Wesley Meacham. Please do not copy this article in whole or in part without giving credit to the original author.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      That was a very good help and information. I'm from Germany and I must give a 5- minute presentation about gap - year activities :-))

    • Wesley Meacham profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesley Meacham 

      6 years ago from Wuhan, China

      Thanks for the kind words and the sharing Paul.

      I've recently come to the belief that everyone should live abroad for at least one to two years; preferably in a country with a culture and language that is completely different from their own.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      This is a well-written useful hub. When I graduated from high school in 1962, I knew of no friends or classmates who took gap years. We did, however, have foreign exchange students who would spend a summer aboad with a host family. The foreign students would spend one year studying in our school. Coming from a small rural area, there wasn't any talk about going to Europe or Asia. Things have changed a lot in the past 5o years, and the world is a much smaller place with improved travel and communications. Personally, I feel that a gap year is essential for most kids, especially if they are not completely sure what they want to do with their lives after graduation. So much can be gained by living in another country and experiencing its language and culture. Voted up and sharing with followers and on Facebook.

    • livingabroad profile image


      7 years ago from Wales, UK

      Nicely written with some relevant info about taking a gap year. Your right, taking the plunge and working abroad isn't for everyone, and it's even a daunting feeling for those you choose to.

      My advice about taking a working gap year would be to choose somewhere where you can easily find work and get a working holiday VISA for that country. You could even take a qualification in TEFL to pick up some work along the way or maybe do a scuba diving internship? It will open a whole new world one which I have not yet left behind after graduation from university in 2008! Up and interesting!

      Thanks for sharing Wesley!


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