Taking a Gap Year: Benefits & Risks

Discover the benefits and risks of taking a gap year as a college student.

McKenzie Nevins

August 22, 2016

Taking a Gap Year: Benefits & Risks

After years of extracurricular activities, volunteer work, honors papers, and AP credits, it can seem a little exhausting to find yourself at the beginning of four more years.

And while college is different in many ways from high school, some students still find they need a breather from the rigor of academic life.

In other words, a gap year.

I know this phrase can be a little off-putting, but stick with me here.

Benefits

Gap years allow you to return to college with renewed focus. Contrary to common belief, most gap year students do return to school when their year is up. And when they do, they return with the independence and maturity necessary to navigate university life. Many colleges are even offering scholarships to gap year students now.

Additionally, taking a gap year can give you sufficient time to decide what life path to follow. A lot can change in a year. Taking some time off may help you decide on a major more easily.

Gap year students have the opportunity to break down the four walls of a classroom and see the world as a bigger place than they knew it was – and they may even make themselves more marketable to future employers who value independence and the ability to cope with complications.

Risks

Without a clear plan, gap years can become a time to binge on Netflix or flip burgers. This is obviously not what you want. If you are going to take a gap year, make sure you have a plan and are doing it for the right reasons – not just because you want to avoid schoolwork. Try to assess your goals and find ways to reach them, even if it’s something as simple as earning a bit of money or growing your independence.

Often it’s best to look for a volunteer or gap year organization that specializes in these sorts of things. Just make sure whatever organization you sign up for is credible!

Also, make sure you have something solid to come back to. Consider applying for college when you leave but deferring your enrollment. This will keep you from drifting.

Be warned that once all your friends leave for school, it will be tempting to regret your decision. Make sure you have some exciting opportunities lined up to circumvent that.

With proper planning, taking a gap year can change your life and make your college experience that much more fulfilling.

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