What is a Gap Year and Why Consider One?

Submitted by: Rebecca Field, College Counselor

Did you know that February is Gap Year Awareness Month?  With that in mind, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a little information about gap years and some of their benefits.  
A “gap year” is typically defined as a semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to post-secondary education.  No two gap years are the same but most focus on deepening one’s practical, professional and personal awareness while challenging and expanding one’s comfort zone.  Often gap year experiences provide clarity and purpose, resulting in students returning to their post high school lives with a better sense of what they want to study and why.    
There are many reasons that students consider a gap year and many colleges do in fact support this choice.  Colleges and universities report that students who have taken a gap year arrive on their campuses after the gap experience as more mature, goal oriented, and driven students.  

Here are some reasons to consider a gap year:

    1.    Studies show that students who have taken a gap year perform better in college.  There are many reasons for this but one important one is that gap year students arrive on college campuses with a more sophisticated understanding of the need for hard work and commitment.  One might think that taking a break from school will negatively impact a student’s academic performance, but this has not proven to be the case.  Taking a break, identifying passions and possible career paths, and starting college refreshed, focused and full of motivation, can work wonders on performance. 

    2.    Some people worry that a gap on their resume will decrease their employability.  This cannot be further from the truth!  Twelve months of volunteering, interning, becoming fluent in a new language etc. will help students stand out.  The gap experience can also be a great ice breaker during interviews. 

    3.    A gap year experience can help students develop independence. Volunteering, traveling and working a job can help teach students about basic money and time management.  Having to manage time and money for a year or a semester helps students develop lifelong skills that carry over to college and/or employment.  

    4.    Academic burnout is a real issue for many students, and a gap year can help avoid it. Many colleges and universities are aware of the danger of exhaustion and encourage students to take time out to discover what they want to do and gain specific skills that will help for school and work.  

Do you want to learn more?  Attend a Gap Year Fair in your area! They are coming up at the end of February!  Don’t miss out!

Interested in learning more about the planning process?  Talk with Ms. Field about additional resources.