Updated: May 2
Are you considering taking a Gap Year? Or, have you already applied and been accepted into your dream college, and now you are considering deferring your matriculation one year and taking a gap year? This article shares what is a gap year and why select this option for yourself.
What is a Gap Year?
A gap year (or semester) is defined as a transitional period in your life where you can take a break from your traditional academic life. Typically a gap year is taken between high school and college, and allows you a chance to explore, pause and reflect on your life goals, interests and self. Student may use this time to build life skills, learn about the world around them and discover how they want to one day impact others and society.
Gap years may take place domestically or internationally, and can either be an organized program or something you create on your own. Ultimately, gap years should be intentional decisions and experiences.
Here is a short video created by Algonquin College explaining a Gap Year.
Why Take a Gap Year?
There are many reasons someone may select a gap year for themselves.
Here are a few examples:
Life skill building. There are many skills that allow someone to be successful in college and beyond. A gap year can provide skill development away from the traditional academic environment. For example, you may choose to take a gap year to develop your grit, independence, self-advocacy, ability to resolve conflicts, assertiveness, self-management, communication skills, collaboration skills or tolerance for ambiguity. Alternatively, you may want to learn a foreign language that you can use later in life.
Explore careers. Taking time to explore an industry or job function can be highly valuable to you, as you narrow your academic focus areas and become more confident about your college major and minor selection. Having tangible work experiences can also help you obtain internships and jobs in the future.
Simply curious. You may be very curious about the world around you, and you simply want to take time away from school to explore another culture and/or country. Without external life obligations (e.g. spouse, job, kids), you could take a gap year to have an internally rewarding experience, full of learning and new adventures.
Need a break. High school can be very stressful for some students, whether that be due to illness, family situations and/or academic rigor. Taking a break and removing yourself away from normal, daily living for a short time period, can rejuvenate you before beginning your freshmen year.
Religious connection or service. Fostering personal connection with your religion can be a highly meaningful growth opportunity. Whether you spend your time learning and/or volunteering, you may see yourself and your culture's history in a different way, and refine your individual values and priorities.
Save money. It is no secret college is expensive. If you need to contribute to some or all of the cost of your college education, obtaining a paid opportunity during your gap year can allow you to save money for college and feel more financially stable while pursuing your undergraduate education.
Bonus Gap Year Benefits!
Many universities encourage gap years and allow their admitted students to defer matriculation. Universities are willing to do this because it has been shown that students who take a gap year are more likely to be self-aware and even contribute more to the overall university campus. Research about the benefits of Gap Years can be found here (provided by the Gap Year Association).
To find out how a particular university perceives a gap year, simply email their admissions team and ask. Harvard College, for example, loves when students take a gap year. They defer matriculation to 90-130 students each year (see here for information about Harvard and Gap Years).
Researching various gap year options can help you decide if this is something you actually want to pursue. Here is a list of structured program options (provided by TeenLife.com). You can also do research of local companies in your area, and identify if there are any potential job opportunities that look appealing.
Whatever you decide, think about your short and long-term goals, both personally and professionally. Ask yourself, does taking a gap year make sense with my overall life priorities?
Want to Learn More about Gap Years?
Sami has worked with students since she graduated college in 2010, helping them through the full college application process---including career search, college list selection and essay writing. Her main focus is to build self-awareness and confidence in her students.