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The Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

A gap year is when a student takes a break from their formal education after graduating high school.  A gap year does not necessarily have to be an actual calendar year.  It can be anywhere from a semester to a couple of years.  Some students take this opportunity to travel, work, volunteer, or pursue hobbies.  A gap year is not right for everyone.  With careful planning, for some students it can be an invaluable experience.  Below are some pros and cons for students who may be considering a gap year to think about:

What are the Pros of Taking a Gap Year?

  1. A student needs to be mentally ready for the challenges of college. If the recent graduate is feeling academically burnt out they may not be able to do their best going to school right away.  A gap year would allow them to renew their energy, and start fresh in college the following semester or year.

  2. A break from education is a chance to experience life apart from going to school. After being in school full-time for twelve years it may be an ideal time to try something different.

  3. A gap year may be a good way for a student to figure out what they are passionate about. During this time students can see what they really want to study before spending all the required time, money, and energy on post-secondary education.  Taking the time before beginning college, could save time in the end if the break is used wisely.

  4. Students may use the time off school to work full-time and save money for college, which could reduce some stress. Having some money saved will help defray costs of school, and may decrease the amount of money needed in loans.

  5. Depending on how the time is used, a gap year could help a student get into their preferred schools. Students have built impressive applications during gap years by going abroad, working for AmeriCorps or another charity, creating amazing artwork, or even starting their own business.

  6. The short time between high school and college may be the only time in their lives a student will have an opportunity like taking a gap year. After having the responsibilities of a career, family and/or mortgage it is unlikely that a student would ever get the chance again to take time off and pursue a passion.  It will give the student the chance to meet new people, learn great lessons, and mature in a way that is different from going right into their post-secondary education.

There are some cons to taking a gap year as well that are important to consider before making a decision.

What are the Cons of Taking a Gap Year?

  1. If a student already has a good idea of what they want to study and pursue for a career, a gap year may not make sense. It would be better to get started with working towards their goals right away, rather than lengthening the process.

  2. Academics are fresh in the students mind when just finishing high school. They are used to studying, taking tests, solving equations, and writing papers.  Time away from these skills could make it harder to start again.

  3. Students coming right out of high school generally have better resources as far as scholarships, letters of recommendation, assistance with applications, etc. If a student takes a year off and is no longer part of a school, it may be more difficult to get this kind of professional help.

  4. It can be hard for a student to watch all of their friends and classmates begin the college experience when they themselves are not going yet.

  5. Once a student does return to school, they will be a year (or semester) behind than they would be if they started immediately after high school.

  6. The student can end up wasting time or lose focus, making it difficult to eventually return to school.

If a student does decide to take a gap year, the key to success is planning ahead.  Develop a specific time line of what the student’s goals are during the time off well ahead of graduation.  Have the student decide what they will do, what they hope to accomplish, and when they will start their post-secondary education.  Under the right circumstances, a gap year can be a good choice for a recent high school graduate.

College Placement Consulting offers comprehensive college planning services.  In helping to identify each student’s next best step in the college process, our goal at CPC is to eliminate stress, de-mystify the process, and internally motivate each student by using state of the art resources and top notch specialists.  If you are interested in learning more, you can schedule a consultation here or contact us at 410-822-4500 or


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