What is a gap year?
A gap year is a time between years of schooling often devoted to self-exploration, like traveling or personal enrichment, and professional development, including working, interning, and networking. Mostly, it is a chance for you to define what you want out of your learning and your life, and help you develop the empowerment, tools, and self-advocacy to get it. Gap years canbenefit your academic performance, boost career prospects and readiness, and are incredible opportunities to discover your interests and develop skills.
What are the benefits of a gap year?
Almost too many to list, but we did our best...
Taking a gap year is academically beneficial: 60% of surveyed students say experiences during their gap year set them on the path to picking their current college major, studies show students who take gap years have greater “academic momentum” in college, and are less likely to switch majors, and students who take gap years typically out-perform their peers academically.
Taking a gap year can help your future career: 88% of gap year students who went on to graduate said their gap year “significantly added to their employability,” while a former senior admissions official at Harvard said students who take gap years are “more mature, more focused, and more aware of what they want to do with their college education.”
Taking a gap year can make your education meaningful: The two highest-rated outcomes of a gap year are: "A better sense of who I am as a person and what is important to me" followed by “it gave me a better understanding of other countries, people, cultures, and ways of living.”
How can a gap year prepare me for college?
A gap year helps you find direction, which can positively affect choice of major, academic direction, school choice, and the ability to clearly assess what you need from college. A gap year is also a chance for students to establish self-agency and self-reliance, which includes time management, problem-solving, and networking. Even more so, students who take gap years are more experienced in working through adversity, thinking creatively, and have typically built a stronger resume needed to secure jobs and excel within the workforce post-college. Your gap year gives you a foundation on which to build. It’s a valuable chance to experience the “real world.”
Lots of students worry that taking a gap year will render them “behind” in college--actually, the opposite is true. Gap years give you the opportunity to actually be ahead of your peers in terms of work and life experience, while setting you up to excel academically with the mental clarity needed to thrive.
What is deferring from college and why should I do it?
Lots of students who take gap years defer from college for a year--in other words, they postpone their acceptance, take a gap year, then take up their place at the school of choice when the year is up. Deferring is a popular option, especially given that the majority of colleges actually support students taking time away from school before the rigor of college begins, and studies show that stepping off the academic treadmill can set you up for greater success later in life.
Each school has its own policies on deferring, so be sure to check those out during your application process! Deferring is an awesome way to take a gap year that proves meaningful to your college experience.
How do I know if a gap year is for me?
Here’s the thing: Gap years stand to benefit every student. But, if you’re feeling burnt out by school, rushed into making a decision on college or choice of major, unaware of what you want to study and why, unsure about the field you’re choosing to go into, wondering if having more experience would be helpful, are craving real-life experiences to supplement academics, want to travel, are curious about the world beyond school, want to bolster your resume, are interested in making a tangible impact on the world, then a gap year is a sure-fire way to make those things happen.