The decision to take a gap year, semester, or summer before or during college can be a big one, so it’s important to figure out if it’s right for you.
Your situation is undoubtedly unique, but some of the things you’re experiencing and many of the benefits of taking a gap are universal. Let’s get into them.
When you start school at age 6 and don’t come up for air until age 18, it’s pretty common to emerge decorated, but weary and unsure of what exactly you want out of life. There’s no shame in wanting a little time to rest, recuperate, and refocus. By taking a gap, you’ll enter or return to college with a greater understanding of what you want to study, which extracurriculars suit you best, and a renewed passion for learning.
College is the first time that you take your education into your own hands. You choose a major, when to take classes, and how to study. It’s important to set yourself up for success during this exciting phase of life. Studies have shown that gap year students earn higher GPAs, take on more leadership roles, and graduate faster than students who go straight to and through college.
When you veer off the beaten path and design a gap year that matches your interests, you’re bound to meet new people who share those interests. If you travel during your gap, you’ll encounter people from different cultures with unique perspectives. Internship supervisors and service learning mentors may influence your life path and serve as references and professional advisors for you in the future.
Navigating the world on your own before age 22 is impressive. So is plunging into a new culture and learning the language. Even more so is interning with an international company. Gaining work experience can help you determine which field you’re interested in, what type of role, and where the gaps in your knowledge may be. You’ll develop your cross-cultural communication skills, which will help you navigate any new workplace culture. An international internship puts you ahead of the curve and will help your application stand out to future employers.
One thing that everyone talks about that is absolutely not overrated is traveling the world. Experiencing new ways of life—food, dance, music, art, architecture—can expand your sense of what’s possible. As you take in your new surroundings, you’ll be forced to notice how you interact with them and what that says about who you are and who you want to be. Notice what you love about other cultures and find creative, respectful ways to integrate these traditions into your life.
Deciding not to go straight through high school and college, but to weave your way through new cultural experiences instead takes self-assurance. That confidence will only increase as you find that the world doesn’t end when you make different decisions from your peers, that if anything, your world expands. This is the time to become your best self, to grow into a more confident, independent, and resilient version of yourself. 96% of students who took a gap year reported feeling more confident and mature.
You’re the only person who knows if a gap year, semester, or summer is right for you. For some people, the momentum that swings them from high school to college is imperative for them to complete their formal education. A gap can make all the difference if you feel burnt out, seek purpose, or want to feel more prepared for what’s next. You don’t need to take one at any particular time. You can do it right after high school or anytime during college.
If you’re looking for gap year programs that will inspire you, help you find yourself, and transform you into a global citizen, EF Gap Year might be the perfect fit. We combine immersive international travel with language study, international internships, and service learning opportunities. Explore our programs here.
Helen, seasoned traveler and EF Gap Year alum, offers her advice on how to live in the moment while traveling abroad—advice that she practiced personally…