Should You Take a Gap Year? Pros and Cons

  • Many students take a gap year before college to travel, work, or focus on their passions.
  • You can organize your own gap year or apply for gap year programs.
  • Cons of taking a gap year include high expenses for things like traveling.
  • Pros include being able to craft a strong resume and take a break from school.

Taking a gap year after high school is becoming more and more popular, with many colleges now encouraging students to do so. Some proponents even argue that a gap year, or a year of service before starting college, should be mandatory for all students!

Despite the advantages of taking a gap year, many students don’t fully understand the concept of a gap year. You may believe it involves traveling aimlessly and wasting time — but that’s a common misconception. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

So what is a gap year exactly? And what are the pros and cons of taking a gap year?

What Is a Gap Year?

A gap year is when you take a year off, typically between high school graduation and college. So instead of beginning college the fall after you finish high school, you’d start the following fall.

Gap years are meant to give students a break from academics. It’s usually a time to discover yourself and consider what kind of education and career you want to pursue.

A gap year can take many forms. For example, you could work a job, complete an internship, volunteer, or travel. You can do these activities independently or as part of a gap year program.

Why Do People Take Gap Years?

In one survey, the two most common reasons students gave for taking a gap year before college were to recover from academic burnout and to learn more about themselves.

A gap year not only gives you time to recharge and refocus but also allows you to learn more about yourself on your own terms.

Research on the benefits of a gap year has led schools like Harvard University, New York University, and MIT to encourage students to take one.

Many colleges even allow accepted applicants to defer their admission for a year so they can take a gap year.

Some colleges go one step further and offer university-sponsored gap year programs. For example, Princeton University gives incoming undergrads the option to enroll in a nine-month tuition-free service program.

Taking a Gap Year: Pros and Cons

Although many students can benefit from taking a gap year after high school, the path isn’t for everyone. Here are some gap year pros and cons to consider before making a decision.

Pro: You’ll Enter College Feeling Refreshed and Refocused

The clarity earned by taking a gap year before college can positively affect your academic performance. Research shows that those who take a gap year are more likely to graduate in four or fewer years compared to the national average of six years.

The time spent reflecting and learning about potential paths can also help you make a more informed decision when picking a major.

Con: You Might Waste Too Much Time

An unstructured gap year can open the door to wasting time and losing academic momentum. While gap year programs can provide structure and motivation, if you plan to explore on your own for part or all of your gap year, make sure to clearly lay out goals you can accomplish.

If necessary, inform trusted people of your plans so they can hold you accountable.

Worst-case scenario for a gap year? You stall your academic momentum to play video games, watch TV, and lounge around the house.

Pro: You’ll Build Important Skills

You can use your gap year to develop any number of key life skills. This could mean learning a language while living in another country, honing communication and leadership skills while working on a service project, or gaining hands-on experience through a job or internship.

Con: Gap Years Can Get Pricey

College can be incredibly expensive, and a gap year may appeal to students who fear poorly spending their time in college until they’ve figured out a clear direction for themselves.

On the other hand, gap year programs and traveling abroad are also typically expensive endeavors. Make sure you understand the potential cost of your trip or program as well as any hidden expenses.

Pro: You Can Broaden Your Horizons

Traveling and living abroad for your gap year can be a transformative experience. Immersing yourself in a new culture, learning a language, and seeing the world from a different perspective can help you discover your passions and purpose.

Con: You May Feel Isolated or Like You’re Falling Behind

Watching friends leave for college and go through similar experiences at the same time can increase FOMO. Likewise, knowing you’ll be going through these experiences a year after your peers might make you feel as though you’re falling behind.

Read more  10 Uses for Animal Fat in the Wild

While these feelings are understandable, remember that entering college one year late won’t ultimately harm your professional trajectory. You’ll get to experience college all the same when you eventually start school again.

Pro: It Can Attract Employers

A productive gap year is a great time to engage in resume-building activities. Learning a skill, gaining work experience in your field, studying a language, or spending months learning about a specific topic or country can all help your resume stand out.

A year spent volunteering or interning can also build skills that will impress potential employers.

Con: It May Be Harder to Transition Back to School

Spending your gap year idle or withdrawn from academic engagement could make your transition back to school tricky.

The best way to avoid this problem is to keep yourself engaged and challenged by material you find interesting. One aim during your gap year should be to acquire a skill or learn about yourself, an academic field, or other subject that interests you.

Should You Take a Gap Year?

A gap year isn’t for everyone. Though popular, gap year programs and international travel can cost a pretty penny. It’s worth considering how a gap year could affect your finances before you decide whether to take one.

Other factors to consider include what kinds of activities you plan to do during your gap year. It’s best to start your gap year with a strong sense of what you want to explore and learn.

Ask yourself: What goals do you want to achieve before starting college? What can you only do now that you won’t have time to do while in school?

Though it’s OK to spend some time, especially at the beginning of your gap year, relaxing and taking a break from school, try not to spend your entire year feeling unfocused and aimless.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine whether a gap year is the best course of action for you and your goals.

— Update: 04-01-2023 — found an additional article 10 Gap Year Benefits Before Attending College from the website for the keyword benefits of a gap year.

Benefits of a gap year

There are many benefits for a student to take a gap year before they attend college. Benefits that not only will make you a better student but also are the best way to become a more well-rounded individual. This list aims to show you the top ten benefits of taking a gap year before college.

Find Your Own Gap Year – Check out our Top 35 Colleges that Support a Gap Year 

Wondering What the Deal is on Gap Years? Read on for All the Gap Year Benefits!


1. You Will Perform Better in College

Taking a gap year before college will allow you to perform better when you do attend college. This is due to many reasons, but the main factor is that having a year of time off between the end of high school and the beginning of college will cause you to take your education more seriously. You will see how the world operates first-hand and will understand the value of education that is placed upon individuals by society and the value of education that is inherent due to the fact that it makes an individual not only more marketable but more sympathetic to the plights of humanity. You will also be able to perform better in college in direct relation to all of the other reasons to take a gap year that made it onto this list that we will explore in greater detail.

2. You Will Have Time To Think

A gap year will give you the time to think about what your passion in life really is, and what you should go to school for. There are so many students after high school that don’t figure out what they want to do until it’s too late. By the time they realize it, they have already paid for an education, so their only options are to either stick with the career that they are able to get into with the degree they have or to go back to school and obtain yet another college degree. Not only is this costly in a monetary sense, but it is costly in the sense that these students are having to wait twice as long to enter the field that they are passionate about as it does for the many students that go into college knowing exactly what their career plans are. They are also either putting themselves into further debt without advancing towards their chosen career any or are stuck in a non-rewarding job as opposed to an enriching career. Gap years can prevent this dilemma.

3. You Will Make New Friends

 Being able to make new friends in a non-educational setting is a great way to obtain life-long friends. Most people that become friends with classmates lose touch with them not long after high school graduation. This is because friendships formed during college are usually just friendships based on circumstance. Having a gap year before you enter college will give you a chance to forge long-lasting friendships based on a variety of different reasons instead of just on circumstance. This will allow you to not only have connections before school but also during school and afterward. A good friendship is hard to find and should not be underestimated. These gap year program friendships are not only great due to their social aspect, but they can also become powerful business contacts in the future, allowing you to further your professional network in an engaging and fun manner.

4. You Will Be Able To Experience (Benefit) What the World Has to Offer

Traveling. It’s not something everyone is able to do. Many people start their careers immediately after high school graduation, so most people don’t have a chance between school and work to see the world and different cultures. Taking a gap year before starting college will give you the opportunity to be able to do some international travel and witness everything the world has to offer and possibly make lifelong friends. From new people, new sites, and new foods, there is a lot in the world for you to experience. You can do a lot of exploration in a year’s time and witness many new experiences. By taking a gap year, you will be able to see what makes humanity so great and what makes humanity so terrible at the same time. This can lead you to learn more about yourself and how you might want to change the world through a rewarding career.

Read more  Cucumber – Benefits, Nutrition, Recipes and more

5. You Will Be Able to Build Up Your Resume with Soft Skills

With a gap year program before college, you can do many things that will build up your career, making you even more marketable to employers than someone that just has a degree. Things to do during gap years such as volunteer work, sports, and recreational hobbies are all things that most employers will take into consideration when they are hiring a new employee. They understand that these things can build someone up and give them more value as not only an employee but as an individual. There’s a lot of volunteer work available out there that will help you to show an employer that you’re not only capable (due to your degree) but that you’re also a hard, empathetic worker that is striving to make a positive impact in the world. These volunteer opportunities include city beautification, volunteering at homeless shelters or women’s shelters, or even volunteering to help out in a soup kitchen. So take a gap year and DO GOOD!

6. Take A Gap Year – Gain Work Experience

Along with volunteering, taking a gap year before starting college will also give you the time to obtain an entry-level job or internship. This is a wonderful way to obtain work experience that will not only serve you well during your time in college but will also make it easier for you to obtain a career after graduation. This proves that you not only have the knowledge to be successful in your career but that you also have the work ethic and experience to be successful. Employers will be a lot more likely to hire you if you have work experience — even if it is just entry-level or an internship — than they would someone that holds only a degree. This is because having prior work experience makes you a lower-risk new hire than someone that has no previous work experience.

7. Opportunity to Learn Independence

Gap years spent volunteering, traveling, and working a job will teach you about money management and the worth of a dollar. It will also teach you how to be your own person, as these activities instill a sense of independence in people. You have spent your whole life living under authority figures. Parents, grown-ups, teachers. By taking a gap year or enrolling in a gap year program, you will be able to be independent set your own schedule, and be your own person before beginning college. This is something a lot of students don’t learn until later in life, and it’s very detrimental to them and often they want to learn. Learning independence and being responsible will serve you well not only through your college life but through your entire life. A gap year makes this possible because you will have a chance between having authority figures–in this case teachers–telling you what to do and setting a schedule for you.

8. You Will Be Less Likely to Suffer from Burnout

Burnout is when you have done something for so long that you start paying less attention to it and start looking for ways to avoid it. This is obviously not conducive to a successful college experience, so being able to take a gap year will give you the time off that you need to recuperate and enter your college life refreshed and ready to learn. A lot of gap year program students that do not take a gap year claim to suffer from burnout to some degree, which negatively impacts their studies and makes them more apt to skip school or spend too much time partying. Why would you pay for school if you’re not going to give it your all? A gap year before beginning college and worrying about things like financial aid will help you to avoid this burnout and help you to be more successful in college, which will lead to you being more successful after college.

9. You Can Develop New Life Skills

There are a lot of new life skills one can learn in the 12 months you take a gap year before beginning college. By taking a gap year before college, you could learn a new language or find a new hobby. You can also learn new skills such as drawing, learn a new language, technical writing, cooking or public speaking. These skills will not only give you something enjoyable to do, but they will also be things that you can draw from in your professional life or personal life after graduation. A skill such as learning a foreign language or being able to speak in public can greatly benefit most professionals and give them an edge in their careers. And learning language skills might help if your gap year is spent overseas! Other life skills such as getting a new hobby can help you in your personal life, as it can give you something to do to relax and enjoy. Some popular hobbies that could benefit a student are yoga, writing and drawing. Even playing video games can boost an individual’s spatial memory and hand-eye coordination. As you can see – so many numerous benefits!

10. You Can Become a More Well-Rounded Person

Overall, with all of the hobbies, life skills, independence, responsibility, work experience and traveling that you can achieve in your year-long gap, you will become a more well-rounded person. Being more well-rounded is something that can create so many positive opportunities in your life, and it’s a goal that you should strive for. By taking a gap year before starting college, there are so many things that you can do, achieve and see, all of which will lead to a more enjoyable and successful college experience, career path, and a more rich and more rewarding life overall. For these reasons, among many others, we highly suggest students give taking a productive gap year before diving right into the next chapter of their lives.

Related Rankings: 

  • Top 25 Best Value Online Colleges
  • Top 25 Lowest Out-of-State Tuition Colleges
  • Top 50 Best Value Community Colleges
  • Top 50 Best Value Online Graduate Schools
  • Essential Guide to Online education in the USA
  • Top 50 Best Pre-College Summer Programs
  • Top 25 Best Value Online High Schools
  • Guide to Gap Year
  • 5 Benefits of Taking a Gap Year
  • Is a Gap Year Worth it?
  • 25 Best Value Pre-Law Summer Programs

— Update: 06-01-2023 — found an additional article The Benefits of Taking a Gap Year from the website for the keyword benefits of a gap year.

What am I going to do after high school or college? It’s the question on every school leaver’s mind. Maybe some of your friends have talked about taking a gap year, and you’re wondering if you could use a break like this as well. Or you are currently weighing up the pros and cons. We have more than 20 years of experience with gap year students and these are the major benefits they keep raving to us about!

Read more  31 Crucial Pros & Cons Of Tea

What is a gap year?

A gap year is a break from study or work that some students take to pursue their other interests, dreams and passions. Gap years can be taken for varying durations and at any stage, whether that is right after high school, after college or even during college. 

There is no one right way to spend a gap year, it’s totally up to you! Some students choose to fly off to a sunnier place abroad and experience a different culture on a gap year program, while others volunteer at a local charity or do an awesome internship.

1. Personal growth

Personal growth is what it’s all about on a gap year! Research from the Gap Year Association showed that personal growth was the biggest takeaway for gap year students. 98% said their gap year helped develop them as a person, 97% saw an increase of their maturity level and 97% reported an increase in self-confidence.

2. Develop new skills

A gap year is the perfect time in life to do new things and learn new skills. Maybe you have always wanted to play an instrument, pick up wakeboarding or volunteer for an animal sanctuary. Even if the skills are not directly related to your future career, you might find a new hobby or passion to last you a lifetime.

On top of that, you will learn a lot of soft skills on a gap year program that are extremely valuable in the job market. Communication, problem solving and adaptability just to name a few!

Benefits of a gap year

3. Learn a foreign language

There are so many ways to pick up a new language these days. Downloading the right app and practising a few words every day is one way to go. Another, tried-and-tested way is to immerse yourself with native speakers.

Want to learn Spanish? There’s about 450 million speakers in the world, so there shouldn’t be a problem there. Just combine an epic trip to Costa Rica, Mexico or Peru with some language instruction and immersion abroad.

4. Meet new people

Whatever your gap year is going to look like, you’re bound to meet tons of new people. Get to know coworkers on your internship, fellow volunteers on your service-learning journey or other gap year students on a program.

When you decide to go on a gap year program abroad, you’re practically guaranteed to make lasting friendships since you’re exploring a country, going on crazy adventures and doing everyday tasks together.

Benefits of a gap year

5. Boost your resume

A gap year alone won’t boost your job prospects. If you were considering spending a year playing video games, future employers might not be too impressed with that (unless you’re applying in the gaming industry of course). But a productive gap year will help your resume stand out and is a great talking point at any job interview. Employers love to hear you talk about a volunteering project, an internship or an experience like teaching English in a foreign country.

6. Prepare for college

Some people have known since they were 10 years old what they wanted to be when they grew up, but most people are still figuring it out when they graduate high school. Taking a gap year can give you some breathing space to consider your options and get a better idea of what you want to study before starting college (or if you even want to enter college at all). You will end up making a more informed decision, which is probably why gap year students end up graduating sooner than other college students.

7. Experience different cultures

Taking a holiday to a foreign country is an entirely different experience from actually living in a country. A gap year allows you to truly immerse yourself in a new culture by living, working and volunteering alongside the locals.

You will learn about the culture, expand your global network and develop your worldviews as you go on your road to becoming a global citizen. Later on in life, most jobs only allow you to take a couple of weeks leave at a time, so this might be your last chance to broaden your horizons in this way.

Benefits of a gap year

8. Gain work experience

Want to spend your gap year working full time, either locally or abroad? Future employers will love you for it! Gaining experiences specifically related to the career you want, shows them your commitment. It could also give you letters of recommendation and useful contacts for later, while you figure out if this career path is right for you.

9. Have fun!

A gap year is a great, once in a lifetime experience, so don’t let this year go to waste and tick off some things from your personal bucket list. Go scuba diving, hike to Machu Picchu, pick up Mandarin, work with elephants in an animal sanctuary or learn how to make the perfect pizza in Italy. The sky’s the limit!

Benefits of a gap year

So should you take a gap year?

There is no right and wrong answer to this question. Discuss with gap year advisors, parents, friends and gap year organizations, but you can only make the final decision yourself. Do what’s right for you!

Just don’t decide against it out of fear of the unknown, because being pushed out of your comfort zone is what a gap year is all about. And know that you’re not stuck at any point in time. You can always make changes to the way you spend your time and to the duration of your gap year. 

After all these years of sitting behind the school desk, you finally have the opportunity to learn in completely different ways. Instead of reading about the world and cultures in a school book, you get the chance to experience those places first hand. Wouldn’t it be a shame to miss out on that? If you’re looking for a gap year program that combines travelling abroad, volunteering, cultural immersion and many action-packed days, take a look at Pacific Discovery’s gap year programs.

Discover more


Recommended For You

About the Author: Tung Chi