A year between high school and college, commonly spent traveling, working, or volunteering, is commonly referred to as a gap year. Formerly a popular option for primarily European students, gap years are now increasing in popularity amongst students in India. But why?
For many students and parents, a gap year can sound intimidating at first. Some students worry that college admissions will frown upon their experiences or that they will fall out of sync with a peer group that’s grown comfortable over years of shared academic experiences. Parents might worry that a student will lose interest in college or fall behind academically. Indeed, gap years can be the source of anxiety and even conflict.
In reality, though, a gap year can be a valuable experience in many ways. In fact, some colleges such as Harvard as even encouraging students to defer for a year, providing resources about the benefits of taking a gap year before starting college. In this post, we’ll outline the eight pros of taking a gap year.
So, what are the benefits?
There are myriad reasons to postpone starting college directly after high school.
- Financial reasons often compel students to take a gap year. If you anticipate a change in your family’s financial situation that would significantly increase your financial aid award, or take your extra year to work and save money, it can go a long way in making your education more affordable. Some students even take a gap year because they’ve been offered a unique employment opportunity that they won’t be able to accept later in their educational career.
- Health. Another reason to take an extra year between high school and college is your or a family member’s health. If you have chronic health concerns, taking a gap year can allow you to learn how to best manage your illness or recover without the stress of moving and classes. If a family member is ill, taking the year off to spend time with or serve as an aid to them is also a common decision.
- Personal Circumstances. There are also many personal reasons that one might choose to take a gap year separate from immediate, necessary concerns like finances or illness. Many students do choose to travel in the year before they start school, as once they’ve started studying, their summers are likely to be filled with work or internships. This travel isn’t always purely recreational, either; students can apply for grants to conduct research at home or abroad.
- Pursuing Interests. Gap years can also be a great time to devote yourself to volunteering, finally finish your list of books to read, or thoroughly reflect upon your personal and career goals. Usually, students have very little free time in high school to pursue pursuits other than academics or their extracurriculars, and those who take a gap year have a chance to explore their interests to a degree that wouldn’t be possible while in high school and probably wouldn’t be possible in college, either. For those who are unsure about their major or career path, gap years afford an excellent opportunity to carefully consider and create an academic and professional plan.
- Burnout/Buffer Year. Some students choose to take a gap year even if they don’t fall into any of the above categories; the period between high school and college marks a major transition and a huge increase in responsibility, and there are students that just prefer to enjoy another year of freedom. Most, if not all colleges will allow you to postpone your first semester by one or sometimes two years if you choose without having to worry about reapplying. Many high school students, especially those who are ultra-competitive, feel burnt-out after high school. Four years of rigorous studies, sports teams, academic competitions, and college applications take a toll, and some can seriously benefit from taking a year to decompress. If you feel you’d benefit from another year or two to mature, learn, and explore without the pressure of a competitive university environment, you might benefit from taking a gap year.
Need more guidance? Go read our gap year blog!