The idea of taking a gap year, defined as a break from formal education between high school and university, may seem daunting. After all, it comes with a lot of uncertainty, and watching your friends settle into their university lives can make you feel all the more anxious. However, taking a gap year is not all too bad.
Students take a break from formal education for various reasons: to travel, to take part in volunteer work, to gain real-world insights, and to decide what they want to pursue in the future. In a comprehensive study by the American Gap Association, it was noted that 81% of the students who took part in the survey would recommend taking a gap year to fellow students.
That’s not all, as per a news report by Yale University, around 341 students who were enrolled in the class of 2024 elected to take a gap year instead. While more and more students are opting for a gap year, it is still a seminal choice and needs proper thought and consideration. The transition from high school to college is a challenging one and you need to be well-equipped with correct information to make the right decision.
Out here, we’ve compiled a list of pros and cons to give you a better idea about gap years, what you can do during it, and what are some of its drawbacks. Read on to know more.
Pros and cons of a gap year for high school students
High school graduation marks a pivotal moment in the life of any student, as they have to make numerous life-changing decisions. One such decision is whether they should dive head first into college or take some time off to explore different options. Before you make this important decision, here are some pros and cons for your benefit:
The Pros of Taking a Gap Year
1. Makes Room for Personal Growth
Taking a gap year allows you to be alone for a while, without any academic constraints or the mounting pressure of assignments and exams. It gives you time to discover things you are truly passionate about, be it a sport, a subject, music, or something else. You learn more about yourself, and your passions, and find ways to accommodate them into your life.
As such, a gap year becomes a vital path to self-discovery and provides a proper environment for personal growth. As per a survey, 92% of students who take a gap year do it in order to gain experiences in life and find an environment conducive to self-discovery.
2. Gain Real World Experience
It goes without saying that you don’t have to sit ideally during your gap year. You can take up volunteer work, sign up for internships, or get a part-time or full-time job. All of these things look incredible on your resume and it also gives you insight into how the real world operates. Once you step into college, these insights will prove crucial to your overall development and allow you to navigate college with ease.
The hands-on experience you gain during your time off gives you a perspective of what you may want to do in the future. Besides, if you take up a job, having some money helps you save up for college. In addition, around 40% of students who took a gap year had more clarity when it came to career choices.
3. Learn to be Independent
You can spend your gap year traveling to different cities, learning about different cultures, and gaining a holistic perspective of the world you occupy. A lot of volunteer or internship opportunities that come your way involve traveling, so if that is something that is on your bucket list, do look for such options.
Without having the safety net of school or home, you will learn to become more independent and resilient, which will prepare you for college as well as for life ahead. As per a survey by the Gap Year Association, 70% of the students who took a gap year believed their confidence levels were tremendously improved.
4. Time for Making Academic Decisions
Taking a gap year allows you to sit back and reflect upon your strengths and weaknesses, determine your mental capacity, and explore scholarships and the different options available to you. All of these factors play a key role in making academic decisions, which you will have to eventually make.
Away from academic constraints, you can reflect on your potential, decide the subject you want to pursue in college and make more rounded and well-informed decisions. According to a survey, a gap year increased the academic motivation of around 48% of the students who took it and gave around 32% of students a competitive edge when applying to colleges or jobs.
The Cons of Taking a Gap Year
1. Separation from Friends
A lot of your friends and peers will dive into college head first. As such, you will often hear about their college life, how they are adjusting to it, and how things are different in college. This may create a sense of anxiety as you feel that you are missing out on an important experience. Besides, it creates a sense of distance from your friends which can be challenging to deal with as you feel they are moving ahead in life while you are left behind.
However, the good news is that students who take a gap year are likely to graduate with higher GPAs
2. Academic Stagnation
A common fear among students who take a year off is that they will lose academic momentum and will never want to return to college. This can be the case as when you are away from a structured academic system, it can be difficult to follow a disciplined lifestyle and keep yourself updated with the latest developments in different academic sectors. The lack of structure can lead to procrastination and you may struggle to achieve personal goals. As such, it can be difficult to transition back to a formal academic system.
The solution to this is to keep reading about the field you intend to major in, perhaps dedicating an hour or two to strict studying. This ensures that you retain everything you have studied and can seamlessly transition back to academics when the time comes.
3. Money Constraints
One of the chief reasons students are afraid of a gap year is due to the financial constraints they face. If you intend to travel, there will be costs incurred in housing and flights. Besides, you are delaying employment by a year which can be difficult for low-income households.
Additionally, if you take up specialization programs or unpaid internships, they add further to your growing expenses. It is important to openly discuss your financial situation with your family and see if you can chalk out a budget for traveling or exploring specialized courses. If not, you may look for a part-time job that finances a portion of your expenses. Start by crafting a resume and looking for part-time jobs in your neighborhood or online. We’re sure you’ll come across many options!
4. Hindrance During Employment
A lot of employers do not appreciate a gap in your resume while you are applying for jobs. But, do not worry. As long as you have a valid explanation for the gap year, most employers will understand. For instance, if you opt for volunteer work or take up a specialized course, those things stand out in your resume and explain away the gap in it.
This is why it is important not to waste your year but to take up vocational courses or internships that help you gain insight into how the real world operates. Do not sit stagnant but try to enrich yourself.
If you are taking a gap year for other reasons (poor mental health, financial issues, etc.), you can explain it in a personal statement.
Significance of a gap year
It is essential to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to taking a gap year. What may work for your friends may not necessarily work for you. As you leave high school, you will be at an important juncture of your life where you will have to sit back and make certain life-altering choices.
It is important to set clear goals and outline your objectives if you intend to take a gap year. Plan out what you want to do, whether it is traveling, working, or volunteering. Then, create a realistic budget for yourself with the help of your guardians and look into scholarships and grants. Besides, it is imperative that you stay engaged academically and keep learning.
Remember, you should be committed to growing and becoming independent during your gap year. It is a time for reflection and self-discovery. So, move ahead with a clear sense of purpose, chalk out your aspirations, and talk to people around you.
At the end of the day, the decision of taking a gap year is truly unique to your situation and it is essential that you make it after carefully weighing the pros and cons. Whatever you choose, be dedicated to your decision and commit to growing into a responsible individual.
- Temple University Institute for Survey Research. (n.d.). American Gap Association National Alumni Survey. In Gap Year Association.
- Wei, K. (2020, September 3). Class of 2024 sees record number of gap years, most diverse class – Yale Daily News. Yale Daily News. https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2020/09/01/class-of-2024-sees-redcord-number-of-gap-years-most-diverse-class/
- Temple University Institute for Survey Research. (n.d.-b). Gap Year Association National Alumni Survey. In Gap Year Association.
- Data & Benefits – Gap Year Association. (n.d.). https://www.gapyearassociation.org/data-benefits/
- Crawford, C., & Cribb, J. (n.d.). Gap year takers: uptake, trends and long term outcomes (DFE-RR252).
Having a 10+ years of experience in teaching little budding learners, I am now working as a soft skills and IELTS trainers. Having spent my share of time with high schoolers, I understand their fears about the future. At the same time, my experience has helped me foster plenty of strategies that can make their 4 years of high school blissful. Furthermore, I have worked intensely on helping these young adults bloom into successful adults by training them for their dream colleges. Through my blogs, I intend to help parents, educators and students in making these years joyful and prosperous.