Should I Take A Gap Year?

Written by Mollie Welch

  • Publish Date: January 2nd, 2021

A gap year is a leap of faith. Will it be the best year or your life? Do the pros outweigh the cons?

For many high school seniors, the road to college feels more like a steeplechase than a Sunday drive. It can be pressure-filled but also so much fun, from college applications and varsity sports to AP-class exams and prom. As senior year winds down, you’re not alone if you’re feeling pretty burnt out from so many milestones. 

Many students will follow the traditional path and go straight to college from high school. A gap year, semester, or summer is an excellent way to recover from the marathon of high school, while also preparing yourself to make the most of college. 

Through experiential learning on your gap year, you’ll bolster your professional, practical, and interpersonal skills. You’re unique in your interests and goals, so your gap year won’t be the same as anyone else’s. You’ll expand your comfort zone as you experience different cultures, acquire valuable soft skills, and reflect on your past. 

According to the 2015 National Alumni Survey,¬†students¬†who take gap years¬†are¬†more likely to‚ÄĮscore high GPAs.¬†Gap¬†years also tend to¬†result in improved job satisfaction.¬†

Benefits of taking a gap year 

A gap year gives you time to improve your skills and experience the world before whatever comes next. No matter how you spend it, a gap year helps you understand yourself. 

Personal growth and self-discovery 

Your teens and twenties will be filled with incredible discoveries. By experiencing as much of the world as possible during your gap year, you’ll find out what motivates you, who you want to be, and what you want to spend your time doing. Making these discoveries now will help you tailor your life to your interests and help you get comfortable leaving your comfort zone. 

Planning out your gap year can help you make sure you grow and learn. Experiences won’t happen to you; you need to make them happen. Consider enrolling in a gap year program that takes you to other countries and offers you internship, language learning, or service opportunities. 

Recovery from school burnout 

You know as well as we do that senior year has fair share of ups and downs. The pressure can be enough to make your head explode. School has been your full-time job your entire life. Your education stays general through high school and suddenly narrows to a fine point when you enter college. 

Taking time to discover your passions between high school and college can help you make a more informed decision about what you’ll study in college and how that will prepare you for your career. It’s also a great idea to take a break from full-time classroom learning. 

Colleges and universities know that the academic burden placed on students can wear them out. That's why many schools encourage prospective first-year students to take a gap year before their enrollment. That way you can determine your university major more critically, volunteer and acquire important skills, and enjoy some time when grades and deadlines don’t rule your life. 

If you're still in doubt, remember that research shows that 90% of students who decide to take a gap year return to their academic life with renewed enthusiasm and motivation. 

Learning new life skills 

Adaptability, cross-cultural communication, and problem-solving are some of the soft skills you can hone during your gap year. These are some of the most sought-after skills in the job market. Employers are on the lookout for individuals with impressive interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. 

A gap year gives you the chance to become a global citizen, which makes you more attractive to colleges and employers. 

Prepare for college 

Deferring from college gives you time to think about what you want to study, where you want to focus your extracurricular energy, and who you want to be in college. 

The upside of taking a gap year is that is it gives you a better understanding of the world, your place in it, and how you can contribute and make it a better place. Typically, students who go straight from high school to college change their majors at least once. 

Gap year students also get higher GPAs on average, take on more leadership positions, and graduate sooner. 

Gain confidence 

A gap is the perfect time to travel to places you might never have imagined visiting and might not have the time or freedom to visit in the future. You’ll discover new places, people, and ways of life. Experiencing different cultures enhances your self-confidence, because you’ll know that you can communicate with all kinds of people. 

Traveling isn’t always easy. The challenging experiences will improve your flexibility and patience, helping you discover who you are and how it impacts the people you meet. 

Tips for maximizing your gap year 

This is a once in a lifetime experience, so you have to make the most of it. 

Gain work experience 

Whether you plan to work locally or abroad, it can be invaluable to gain experience in a field that matches your career ambitions. It will help you make the right choices when weighing which major is best for you. 

Getting experience now will show colleges and future employers how committed you are to academic and professional growth. 

Track your achievements 

Your gap year will fly by, so make sure you write down what you’re doing and accomplishing as it happens. Did you take a language course in Madrid? Volunteer in Thailand? Intern in Sydney? What was the company called? What did you do day-to-day? Recording what you’re accomplishing will help you reflect on your experiences in the future and shape them into compelling application essays. 

Be open-minded 

Keeping an open mind is about self-awareness and adaptability. How are you contributing to what’s going well or poorly in a situation? Can you change your response to help solve problems in the moment? These lifelong skills will serve you well in college, your career, and your relationships.

So should you take a gap year?

Short answer: probably. A gap year, semester, or summer can be whatever you need it to be‚ÄĒa¬†break, a challenge, an adventure‚ÄĒno matter what, it won‚Äôt be¬†a waste of time. If you're looking for a program that will help you make the most of your gap experience, take a look at EF Gap Year's academic year, semester, and summer options.


Mollie Welch

At EF Education First, Mollie coaxes vibrant stories from our unique and wonderful student travelers. She has seen how this program transforms students and prepares them to take on college and the world. Outside of EF, she performs stand-up comedy.

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