Don’t Fear a Gap Year

Students can gain many benefits from gap years.


Molly Conway

Gap years give students the unique opportunity to travel and do service. One place students could perform service is San Andres Itzapa, Guatemala, the village students travel to on the school-sponsored spring break trip.

Cecilia Mohácsi, Print Co-Editor-in-Cheif

As College Decision Day May 1 creeps nearer every day, the pressure to pick a school and be whisked off to four years of further education grows. However, not all students take the fast track to college and opt for a gap year instead. Used for the right reasons, gap years can be a great option for students.

After spending so much time taking AP classes, ACTs and submitting applications to colleges, it might seem counterintuitive to put college on hold for a year. However the idea of a gap year in the United States has become increasingly popular, despite what some parents may think about it. Colleges have made it easy to take a gap year if that’s what students decide is best for them, often only requiring a simple email to defer admission for the next fall semester. Other schools even have gap year programs available for students to take part in. Princeton University has the Bridge Year Program that offers first-year students a tuition-free year used for nine months of university-sponsored service at one of five international locations, according to Princeton University.

One reason that colleges are more open to gap years is that it’s the perfect opportunity for students who do not know what they want to study yet to explore interests and grasp a better idea for what they want to do in the future. It allows time for job shadowing, volunteering and working in fields that they are considering. This lets them gain experience and possibly narrow down their options. Then, going into school a year later, they can focus on their studies and pursuing their newfound interests.

Some concerns about gap years are based on the assumption that students will not return to school and abandon their further education. However, this is not the case. Ninety percent of students taking a gap year return to school within a year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Taking some time off can actually be good for students who are burnt out on school and need some time to breathe before settling back down in the classroom. This has actually been shown to help students in the classroom, as gap year students tend to outperform by 0.1 to 0.4 on a 4.0 scale, according to a study of GPA results by former Dean of Admissions at Middlebury College Robert Clagett.

A large number of students take advantage of a gap year to travel. This can be an incredible experience for students to learn about other cultures, live in another country and strengthen their status as global citizens. Travelling is educational on its own, but students can take language immersion courses to put more structure in their adventures abroad and even become bilingual, which of course is a bonus to add to resumes and job applications.

The options for students are endless and taking a gap year has never been easier. Gap years can be an incredibly enriching and beneficial experience for students, especially when they are unsure of what they want to do next, so don’t be afraid to take a year off.