The Gap is No Pitfall: the Benefits of Taking a Year Off


A high school student is expected to prepare for college, become a member of academia, and then graduate and get a job. This formula has been retold countless times to the point where it seems like the only plausible option for most upcoming college attendees. Most feel that they have to start college immediately after high school, otherwise they will have a late start in their adult life—or never get their start at all. However, there is an option for those willing to take a later start: the gap year.

A gap year is when a high school student takes off the year after graduation to pursue other interests rather than starting their higher education. While this unorthodox practice sounds like an excuse to be lazy, it can be beneficial for the student who puts his or her education on hiatus.

Often students are not sure where they want to do with their life. For one, a person’s interests may change over time. Before considering what you want to study, you have to think about what your passions in life are. Time away from more schoolwork can help you decide what you want to do with your life before deciding your major. You may even use your time off to work on volunteer projects or job opportunities to gain work experience in fields you may be interested in. If you did not have stellar marks throughout high school, your time off can also be used as an opportunity to improve grades with external programs or tests such as the SAT.

Educators have argued that taking a year off before college better prepares the student for the work ahead. The mental break allows for one to get reinvested in academics and work from that point onward. Plenty of colleges—such as Princeton, Rutgers, Tufts, NYU, RIT, and countless others—as well as many programs—such as Projects Abroad, USA Gap Year Fairs, and the Gap Year Association—help people find opportunities to earn credit or scholarships during their time off. Doing work that helps build your résumé will make you more valuable as a candidate for colleges looking for hardworking students with some sort of experience in what they want to pursue in their lives.

The gap year sounds spectacular, but it is not for everyone. Some people find it hard to get back into their schoolwork once they take a break. Others may do nothing that will benefit them on their hiatus, lagging them behind their former classmates and friends as soon as college starts up. You may be the type that feels most prepared for college as soon as high school ends; you may be the type that feels you need more time to ready yourself. However you may feel, it is good to consider your options for the long road ahead.