Minding the gap: the benefits of a gap year

Maya Winger

Languages, traditions, food, religion, and art. These are all aspects of every culture, but many people never get the chance to explore other cultures outside of their own. Gap years are a valuable opportunity for high school graduates to gain life experience, but many students don’t even know that it’s a possibility. A gap year is when a student who recently graduated high school takes a year break from school in between high school and college. There are a variety of ways a student can spend their gap year such as, move to a new country, get a job or attend a year-long program to learn about new cultures. After high school, there are many people that are unsure of what they want to do for the rest of their lives, and moving directly from high school to college may not be the right decision for them. However, many people overlook the option to take a gap year because of the stigma surrounding the costs and the fact that they will not receive a conventional education.

 A common mindset that many students and parents share is that taking a gap year can mean “losing a year” or slowing down one’s education, but this is not true. This is subjective to the individual, but one year can help people learn more about themselves and what they want for their future. In an interview with Your Teen Magazine, Daisy Shepherd, a student from Seattle who graduated high school in 2017, said taking a gap year after graduating helped her feel like part of a larger, global community. Shepherd also mentioned how a gap year can be the first year that a student can truly be responsible for themselves and get to make their own decisions, a freedom that most young adults don’t experience until after high school. Shepherd traveled around India for several months and then continued her studies at college after her gap year, demonstrating that taking a gap year may not necessarily make a student lose academic momentum. A Forbes article stated that 90% of students who take a gap year attend college the following year. Attending college is a decision that every student must make, and taking a gap year may change someone’s interests or hobbies, but that doesn’t mean that it will change their views on education.

One significant deterrent to taking a gap year is the cost. Depending on where and what a student chooses to do during a gap year, it can add up to be expensive. Yet, the price doesn’t even compare to the cost of college today. According to Forbes, the average cost of one year of college is approximately $28,775, and many private colleges cost even more. GoAbroad states that the average gap year program costs around $10,000-12,000, and some programs can even be free. Comparing these costs, a gap year is clearly a reasonable financial endeavor.

A study conducted by the American Gap Association reported that most students that took a gap year had a memorable, enjoyable time. Students reported having a positive experience managing their own money, forming a relationship with peers, being in a new environment, and traveling with a group of people. These are skills that will help people outside of school and in their careers as well. According to the same study, 98% of students reported that taking a gap year allowed them time for personal reflection and helped them develop as people. All of these elements can help prepare young adults for the rest of their lives, whether they continue with their education or not. 

Overall, taking a gap year doesn’t have to mean the end of a person’s education, and while it may not appeal to everyone, it is a unique opportunity that more students should consider taking advantage of. Many students will continue their education all the way into college, and others may not go to college at all. However, it’s important to remember that taking time off to focus on things other than school can be very beneficial, and a gap year is the perfect way to do that.