Approaching your high school graduation is an exciting milestone and a perfect time to think about your future. Some students have everything carefully planned out: the school they’ll attend, what they’ll major in, and when they’ll start. Other students may still need some time to figure these things out, and that’s okay. There’s no need to rush into making a major decision if you’re still trying to iron out the details.
If you’re thinking about taking a year off after high school, then you may have considered taking a gap year before starting college. If the thought of taking a gap year has crossed your mind, you’re certainly not alone. A recent study reveals that more than one-third of students consider a gap year.
If you’re considering a gap year, be sure you understand the benefits and drawbacks of taking a year off.
What is a Gap Year?
A gap year is typically a year in between high school and college that some students use for personal enrichment and growth. Many use this time to travel, volunteer, take on full-time internships, save up extra money by working additional hours, and more.
Should I Take a Gap Year?
You may want to take a gap year before college if you’re still trying to save money for college, decide where you want to go to school or what you want to major in. There may be other life experiences you’re seeking before embarking on your college journey, and taking a gap year can be the perfect opportunity to do so.
If you are worried about how to pay for college, taking a gap year may be a good option for you to work and earn extra money to finance your education.
Benefits of a Gap Year
There are several benefits of a gap year, and they mostly all boil down to the opportunity for students to be able to find themselves. By going directly from high school to college, it may be difficult to focus and explore who you truly are, as well as your goals and aspirations.
1. Get Clarity on What You Want to Do Next
Through various life experiences during a gap year—whether it be extensive travel, a new job, or learning new skills—many students find that they get more clarity on what they want to do with the rest of their lives. It can give them the chance to explore career choices and decide on a college, as well as a major, that they know they’ll enjoy.
2. On-the-Job Experience
Students may realize what major best suits their strengths through on-the-job experience during their time off from school. Working during a gap year can not only give students a chance to earn extra money for college expenses but can also provide invaluable job experience for their resumes. Graduating from college and already having at least a year of relevant job experience can be very appealing to potential employers.
3. Travel the World
If you’ve always wanted to travel, a gap year also gives you plenty of time to travel extensively, which is an opportunity that many students may not get again until they reach retirement age.
4. Less Likely to Suffer from Burnout
Another major benefit of a gap year is that many students find that they’re less likely to suffer from burnout by taking a bit of a breather. After all, when you finish high school, you just completed many consecutive years of school without much of a break, apart from the short seasonal breaks. Before you dive into several more years of school, followed by the start of your career, you may benefit tremendously by just taking a step back from everything.
Disadvantages of Taking a Gap Year
Although there are certainly benefits of a gap year, there are disadvantages of a gap year, too. While this time off from school is meant to give students a chance to reset and recharge, there is always a chance of it backfiring.
1. Time Off Not Spent Wisely
Some students may find that they do not use their time off from school wisely, and as a result, may have been better off just enrolling in college immediately after high school graduation.
2. Defer Going to College Too Long
For other students, they may find that a gap year goes beyond one year. They may decide to never enroll in college, which could be a decision they ultimately end up regretting.
Depending on how you’re planning to spend a gap year, it can also be costly. It’s one thing if you’re using the time to save up money, but if you plan on traveling for a year, it will likely dip into your savings, even if you travel on a modest budget.
If you are leaning toward taking a gap year, it’s best to have a plan in place for this time off, in addition to what school you’re likely to enroll in when your gap year is over. Trying to figure everything out at the last minute could be overwhelming, and you may ultimately decide that a gap year isn’t for you after all.
How to Plan for Your Gap Year
If you’re still undecided, consider a compromise. Think about the goals you’re hoping to accomplish during a gap year, and how you can work college into those plans, too. For example, if you want to travel, consider taking a semester abroad. If you’re looking for work or volunteer experience, explore the option of a part-time enrollment at your college of choice and determine if you take on a little bit of both. Your college advisor should also be able to help you go over your options
If you’re looking to learn more about taking the first step toward planning a gap year, the Gap Year Association is a great place to start. This organization provides information on accredited programs, insightful videos, information on college deferral policies, and other useful resources.
Consider Your Finances
Taking a gap year can be costly, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Depending on your plans, you can cut down on costs; for example, if you aspire to travel, consider budget-friendly destinations with low-cost accommodations. Take a good hard look at your finances. If you’re going to take a year off, you’ll want to take advantage of this time to gain valuable life experience.
It’s important to keep your options open when it comes to exploring different ways to cover your college expenses. If your family’s financial situation has changed during your gap year, be sure to fill out your FAFSA with the updated information so that your records stay up to date. If financial aid doesn’t cover all of your college costs out private student loans like the ones we offer at College Ave Student Loans can help fill in the gap. Learn more about the different student loans we offer so that you can find the best option for you.