Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year Before College
April 23, 2019
Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year Before College
Taking a gap year after high school can be a great opportunity for you to focus on self-discovery, gain work experience, save money, travel, volunteer, and more. 30,000-40,000 students take gap years before college every year, and 90% of students who take structured gap years return to college within a year. But it’s true: a gap year is not for everyone. It can also have negative consequences that may set you back. This decision must be made on a case by case basis! Before you determine the right plan for you, spend some time weighing the pros and cons of taking a gap year as I’ve outlined below. Carefully consider the factors based on your personal situation and goals for the future.
You have more time to figure things out
Like most high school students, you may not have a clear idea of what you want to study or how college will help you reach your long-term academic and professional goals and aspirations. A gap year can give you space to breathe, recharge, and explore your interests more intentionally. Giving yourself a year – whether you get a job, move abroad, or spend time volunteering – may just be what you need to learn more about yourself and develop a clear plan for your future. You’ve been in school non-stop for over a decade. A year out of the classroom may also give you the ability to recharge so you do not get burned out. When you are ready to start college, you may be well rested, and more committed to learning rather than going through the motions.
You have time to grow up and mature
Taking a gap year can provide you with the opportunity to learn how to be a responsible adult and develop life skills that you may have not yet gained. Whether you are living away from home for the first time (cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry!) or learning how to manage your money, a gap year may be the kick-in-the-butt you need to gain independence, take responsibility of your life, and make your own decisions without mom and dad’s help. By the time you go to college, you will be much better prepared to take on the academic challenges, because you will have learned responsibility on a whole new level.
You can pursue experiences you’ve always wanted to
If you use your gap year wisely, the extra year can provide you with a wonderful opportunity to explore your interests intentionally, learn more about yourself, and go after new experiences that excite you. You could start a YouTube channel documenting your hikes up the tallest mountain ranges, you could write that novel you’ve always wanted to, or you could become a regional champion swimmer. An extra year of life experience could provide the time you need to do a bucket list item!
You can save up
When thinking about the pros and cons of taking a gap year, a major pro that comes to mind is how much of a difference a year can make from a financial perspective. College. Is. Expensive. Many students graduate with student loan debt or have to take on additional jobs to pay their way through school. If you take a gap year, you may be able to earn some money to fund the next four years, and you will also truly understand the value of a dollar. By the time you go to school, you will see the value of your education in a whole new light. Plus, work experience would look great on your resumé!
You may lose momentum
On the flip side of how you might be burned out after years of school, you might also get too used to the freedom of your gap year. Many people find it difficult to go back to school after being “in the real world” for a while, making it challenging to get back into an academic groove and the rigorous environment of college. Similarly, if you start working, you may simply lose interest in going back to school after a period of time has passed. Be careful, or this gap “year” may turn into a gap decade!
You may waste time
Without careful planning, you may end up wasting time – especially if you are living at home and being supported by your parents. When weighing the pros and cons of taking a gap year, ask yourself exactly how you see yourself spending your gap year. If you are someone who needs deadlines to be productive or can easily default to laying on the couch watching TV all day, an unstructured gap year may encourage lazy habits, cause you to be unproductive, and let you get comfortable “coasting.” In order to make the best use of your gap year, you need to be a determined and hardworking individual who has the self-control to set goals and take advantage of your free time.
You may lose money
Gap years can be extremely costly. If you are planning on traveling around the world or volunteering, you may end up spending much more money than you are raking in – putting you in debt before college (another big expense!). An important part of life after high school is learning to budget. Consider how much you would spend and save when you weigh the pros and cons of taking a gap year. Make sure you think about the financial ramifications of this decision as you decide if a gap year is indeed the right call for you.
You may feel left behind
Even if you feel like a gap year might be the right choice for you, watching your friends and peers go to college may be difficult and disheartening. Depending on how you spend your gap year, you may feel left out and struggle with feeling like you are falling behind while others are moving ahead. Seeing all their photos partaking in different college traditions on social media might not help very much either. You may lose touch with high school friends as you diverge on different life paths. Taking a gap year requires will power, strength, and confidence in taking a “less traditional” path, so you need to feel secure and confident in your decisions in order to not second guess yourself. That being said, you can also gain strength through this process in doing what feels right for you! So think very carefully about the pros and cons of taking a gap year.
A gap year can be an incredibly valuable experience, but it is not for everyone. It has its advantages and disadvantages, and the decision depends heavily on how you decide to spend the time off. Make sure you carefully weigh the pros and cons of taking a gap year and determine your own personal circumstances in order to make the decision that is right for you.