Taking a Gap Year: The Pros and Cons of Taking Time Off Before College

Young Woman TravelingFor many, the term “gap year” is synonymous with travel. However, travel is only one of many things a student can do when taking a year off between high school and college. In this post, we’ll look at the advantages and drawbacks of taking a gap year between high school and college.

Pro: Time to Work, and to Save Money

The year you take between high school and college can be used to gain valuable real-world experience in the job force. If you decide to work during your gap year, and are still living at home with your parents, you can put the money you make toward an emergency fund, or toward your college fund. Plus, if you plan to work through college, your gap year work experience can improve your chance of finding meaningful gainful employment while in school.

Pro: Time to Decide What You Want to Do

Not every student knows what they want to do when they “grow up,” and that’s OK. When you take a gap year between high school and college, you give yourself time to explore your passions and determine what you want to do with your life. To help yourself determine the way forward, volunteer locally to see where your interests can be matched with gainful employment. Visit VolunteerMatch.org for opportunities near you.

Pro: Time to Expand Your Horizons

Of course, your gap year can also be used for travel. Make this an educational experience by considering study abroad or volunteering opportunities for students between high school and college. The nonprofit organization AFS (formerly American Field Service) suggests a variety of educational and service-oriented study abroad opportunities just for students taking a gap year. Visit AFSUSA.org for more information.

Pro: Time to “Grow Up”

When you take a gap year, you give yourself time to mature before entering college. This means that you can enter school older and wiser and with a better sense of yourself. When you consider that many students struggle to adapt to the freedom of college, this can be a very good thing.

Con: Your Friends Leave for College Without You

One major drawback of taking a gap year is the feeling that you are being left behind as your friends head off to school. This is normal and can be alleviated by ensuring you have a greater sense of purpose when you take your gap year, such as saving money or traveling. As your friends head off to school, make sure you have a network of friends that you can lean on closer to home.

Con: A Lack of Structure Can Lead to Inactivity

Many students who decide to take a gap year discover that the lack of school-imposed structure contributes to a feeling of lethargy. You can combat this by making sure you’re spending your gap year meaningfully. This includes working, volunteering and traveling. The more structured you make your gap year, the better equipped you will be to handle the freedom that comes with your taste of adult life.

Con: You May Have Trouble Transitioning Back into School

After a year on your own, you may find that you have trouble easing back into the academic world of note taking and paper writing. However, keep at it. You will likely get the hang of it again, and have a lot of gap year experience to bring to your studies.

Thinking of Taking A Gap Year?

Experts recommend that you apply to college during your senior year of high school, even if you’re considering a gap year. You may even be able to defer admission, depending on the college. That way, you’re applying to school at the same time as your peers, and you’ll have a definite end to your gap year when it’s time to start school next fall, albeit a year later.

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Categories: College Planning
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