The gap year has become more popular throughout the years. Students all across the country have started taking a gap year before heading to college. A gap year is a great way for students to learn, explore, and help out others before heading to college. But what’s a gap year?
What’s a Gap Year
A gap year is time that someone takes off between stages of their life. People take gap years all the time, but for our purposes, we will be look at the gap year from the perspective of college students. Students who want to take a gap year will typically take one after they graduate high school and before they head to college.
A gap year provides time for students to travel, volunteer, and explore while learning and preparing to start college. The gap year has become more popular as students and parents have realized some of the unexpected benefits of taking one. One of the biggest benefits of taking a gap year is the time it allows for students to mature both physically and mentally – some students may not be ready to head off to college. You can read more about the pros and cons of taking a gap year below.
Why Take a Gap Year?
There are plenty of reasons students take a gap year. In the last couple of years, colleges and universities across the country have encouraged students to take one – some of these institutions even offer university-sponsored programs.
One popular reason students take a year off is to take a break from academics for a year because they may be experiencing burnout. Burnout is a very real problem – plenty of students are so burnout from high school that when they enter college their grades drop. A gap year is a great way to recharge the batteries while also growing personally.
Another popular reason students take a gap year is to experience new things. Students may want to travel, volunteer, or learn more about themselves. Students can join plenty of programs that focus on volunteering in different parts of the world – this checks two boxes, traveling and volunteering. Some students may want to focus on learning more about themselves and their interests before heading to college and choosing a major.
Another common reason for students to take a gap year is to earn some extra money. Students can take the time off as an opportunity to work full-time, which they would not be able to do if in college. This is a great way to save some money to use to pay for college.
The graphic to the right outlines reasons why students decided to take a gap year. The results are from a survey conducted by Nina Hoe, PhD.
Pros and Cons
Gap years can have many pros and cons. Some people love the idea of taking a year off and will tell you all the pros. Other people might not understand gap years and will tell you all the cons. We have listed several pros and cons below.
One of the biggest pros of taking a gap year is the opportunity to recharge. Students may be burnt out from high school and not ready to tackle the challenging coursework they will run into while in college. On top of classes being more challenging in college, this will also be the first-time students are living away from home. That means more responsibilities on top of your studies.
Another reason some students may take time off is because it looks good on a resume. Students will always have a talking point when in an interview. Participating in a program or experience where you travel, volunteer, work, or better yourself in some way will show potential colleges and employers what kind of person you are. Colleges and employers are always looking to add motivated individuals.
A year off provides a great opportunity to experience new things. This could be one of the only times in your life where you can drop everything and go explore. It is hard to take a gap year during college, and even harder to do so once you graduate college. Take advantage of this opportunity in between high school and college.
Students can really grow and mature by taking time to learn about themselves, travel, and explore. Students will be participating in new activities or experiences which will help them grow both physically and mentally. Some students may not be ready to go to college just yet. A gap year is a great way to grow and improve on skills that will help you the rest of your life.
Gap years can be expensive. Depending on how you spend your time, you could be looking at thousands of dollars. Some programs may be able to offer money and grants to assist students. Other programs, specifically volunteer programs, may provide a place to stay and assist with living costs in exchange for you volunteering your time. Whatever you decide, it is important to understand the costs associated with your gap year before you commit to it.
The potential of losing interest and not going to college is a major con. Not taking classes for a whole year is a long time. When the year comes to an end, some students might decide that they do not want to pursue a college degree. Make sure you know yourself. If you think this might be an issue, you should really consider if taking a year off is the best option for yourself.
The fear of falling behind is another con. Some students worry about falling behind and not graduating “when they are supposed to.” While this is a valid fear, what is the difference between graduating college at age 22 or 23? There is no right or wrong age to graduate from college. If you are not in a rush to get a full-time job after college, you should not worry about falling behind.
Applying to College After a Gap Year
Students who take a gap year will have two choices when it comes to applying to college. Some students may have gone through the college application process and got accepted in a school. Some schools allow students to defer their decision for a year. This means that you can tell the school you will be taking a year off before attending – perfect for a gap year.
Other students may have decided that they were going to take a year off early on and did not apply to college. No worries, you can still apply to college. You will have the same deadlines as other students. The added time off is the perfect opportunity to add to your college resume and a great talking point for any college essay. Read more about when to start applying for college here.