Why You Should Consider a Gap Year: The Ultimate Guide

In most instances, students accepted to colleges can defer their admission for one year.

Many of those who grab such an opportunity do so to take a gap year.

Simply put, a gap year (also sometimes referred to as a sabbatical year) is a period between high school and college when teens take a break from the progression of their education in order to pursue other activities.

These days, more and more colleges and universities support gappers — students who take a gap year.

A few examples of the many pro-gap year postsecondary institutions include:

  • Florida State University
  • Harvard University
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Middlebury College
  • Princeton University
  • Tufts University

Let the following gap year statistics from the Gap Year Association (GYA) tell you why you should take a gap year:

  • 98% of gappers said it gave them time for personal reflection
  • 97% of gappers said it increased their maturity level
  • 96% of gappers said it boosted their self-confidence
  • 93% of gappers said it helped improve their communication skills

Indeed, taking a gap year can help you gain skills and experience you can leverage for the things you want to do next, which you can establish by delaying your college attendance.

In this post, we’ll talk about the advantages of a gap year.

We will also discuss some of the disadvantages that come with it, thus allowing you to determine whether or not a gap year is right for you — not everyone can benefit from being a gapper, especially if they do it incorrectly.

gap year travel

Gap Year Advantages

Knowing the various benefits of taking a gap year allows you to determine whether or not it’s what you need.

The perks shared by gap year research after research reveals are hard to overlook.

So much so that many colleges and universities have gap year programs that allow prospective college students to participate in internships, study-abroad opportunities, and other activities that yield firsthand experience.

Some institutions with a gap year program are:

  • American University
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Florida State University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Tufts University
  • William & Mary

Whether through an official program a school offers or according to your own plan or schedule, the benefits of a gap year are the same for individuals who could use them.

Gain Life Experience

Some people also call a gap year experiential learning.

It’s because it allows you to learn things you won’t necessarily learn inside a classroom.

Stepping out of your comfort zone, immersing yourself into an entirely different culture, and interacting with individuals from various backgrounds allows you to gain skills highly sought by college admissions officers.

Understand Yourself Better

A gap year momentarily removes you from your usual routine.

For many teens, that’s generally school, home, school, and home — staying within an established routine or one’s comfort zone may hinder gaining fresh perspectives and insights.

With a fresh pair of eyes, you may be able to realign your values and goals to make better decisions.

Explore Your Interests and Passions

One year is more than enough to engage in pursuits you find fascinating.

By spending time exploring various ones, you can broaden your horizons and even potentially consider a new career path, thus allowing you to reassess what major you intend to take in college.

From engaging in new hobbies to attending workshops, you might discover a new motivation to earn a degree.

Enhance Your Application

Are you planning on getting admission to an R1: Doctoral University with very high research activity?

Grabbing research opportunities for those taking a gap year is highly recommended.

Researching equips you with just about everything you need to increase your admissions chances, from critical thinking and problem-solving skills to having a mentor who could write you an imposing recommendation letter.

Improved Mental Health

More than 70% of young individuals experience teenage burnout at least once in their lives.

If you’re one of them, taking a break from the books for a while may help reduce excessive stress and anxiety, thus keeping you from potentially winding up with serious mental health conditions.

Taking a gap year also lets you introspect and, ultimately, determine what your inner self is telling you.

Work to Save Money

Being able to build a better educational financing system is one of the most sensible benefits of a gap year for students from low-income backgrounds daunted by the rising cost of college.

Having a job not only allows you to save some money for an undergraduate degree program.

It also helps you learn about budgeting and money management, which are advantageous during college and beyond.

gap year

Gap Year Disadvantages

Even though there are numerous gap year benefits, there are also some downsides to it.

Whether or not you spend your gap year appropriately, you might find yourself encountering the associated negatives, which may leave you in a worse situation than before.

Should I take a gap year?

Because each person is different, answering this question is easier said than done.

Since we’ve already talked about the advantages a gap year can bring, it’s time to discuss the disadvantages to allow you to weigh the pros and cons and decide whether taking one is a wise step.

Momentum Interruption

If you’re someone who easily gets demotivated when distracted or veering from what’s considered customary, you might find it challenging to regain your academic momentum after a gap year.

Making matters worse is the difficulty that comes with obtaining school records and transcripts after a while.

Keeping your eyes on the prize and constantly communicating with your college can help prevent this.

Delayed Career

Your high school batchmates could already be starting their careers.

On the other hand, you could still be working in the final year of your undergraduate studies.

Although professional postponement may lower your self-confidence and self-worth, spending your gap year gaining soft skills employers value can help you catch up in terms of climbing the career ladder.


Some ways of spending a gap year can be harsh on the pocket.

For example, traveling to learn about a culture or master a foreign language may cost a lot of money, depending on where you intend to go and how long you plan on staying there.

While it’s possible to spend a gap year staying on a tight budget, it may considerably limit your options.

gap year travel


Going to college or taking a gap year, you may experience homesickness.

Realizing you can’t stand being away from your family and friends as a gapper could result in you sticking to in-state colleges when it’s time to go back to studying, thus limiting your academic and career opportunities.

Homesickness may also take its toll on your mental health, which might leave you wanting to take a year off again.

Losing Interest in College

Typically, high school graduates take a gap year to help them make better college-related choices.

Taking a gap year may leave realizing that an activity is the right one for you, whether working as a barista or traveling the world to help with building homes for the poor.

As a result, you may skip applying to college altogether to keep what you have discovered you love doing.

Read Next: 9 Short-Term Courses With High Salary

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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