Taking a break: How a Gap Year Can be Beneficial


Written by: Emily Long, Reporter

How many high school students have said that they can’t wait to graduate and leave school? By the time students graduate high school, they have been focusing on their formal education for over a decade and are burnt out from the typical classroom structure. The route that young adults take after high school may vary, from university to going straight to work, but many students tend to forget that there’s another option they have failed to consider: that’s right, I’m talking about a gap year. A gap year, by definition, is typically a semester to a year-long break that students will take either before or after going to college. They use this time to engage in various educational and developmental activities, such as traveling or some form of work. Taking a gap year can provide the ability to become more independent, travel somewhere, and emerge students out of their comfort zone. 

According to the National Alumni survey conducted in 2015 by the American Gap Association, students who were planning to take a gap year gave their top motivations for doing so, and 92 percent said that they were wanting to gain life experiences and grow personally. Eighty five percent said that they wanted to travel and immerse in other cultures and 82 percent said that they just wanted a break from an academic track. 

There is a lot of gray area when it comes to a gap year, as it isn’t really by-the-book, and it is still viewed as pretty unconventional. The idea of a gap year is pretty vague, considering all that you could accomplish in a year. Everyone who takes a gap year does it for their own personal reasons. Some students are wanting the chance to travel, while others can’t decide what they want to do in college yet, and even some take time off for their own mental health. As to whether or not the experience was worthwhile, the American Gap Association conducted a survey where 98 percent of students who took a gap year before college said that it helped them develop as a person.

Taking six months to a year to find oneself has been proven to be beneficial for many reasons. You are allowing yourself time to gain life experiences, like traveling or getting an internship for a job somewhere that you may not have come across if you didn’t take the time to find yourself. A gap year can allow you to explore your interests and find new hobbies that you may have never seen yourself doing before. A small portion of students who do take a gap year just stay at home and not work, either because they don’t feel ready or have no desire to do anything, which isn’t a good reason to take a year off. A gap year is a really helpful way to get students out of their comfort zones. It challenges them to push new boundaries, by doing things like moving out and learning to live on your own. 

Taking time to transition into higher education has been proven to increase students’ GPAs. A study done by former Dean of Admissions at Middlebury College Robert Clagett, found that gap year students tended to outperform in college by 0.1 to 0.4 on a 4.0 GPA scale. The worry is that gap-year students will abandon it altogether, but that is not the case, as 90 percent of gap year students will resume classes within a year.

 Those students who came back from taking time off between school have said that they are able to enter college with a clear focus and an idea of what they want to do, after having some time to explore all possible options. Some students have even changed their major after taking a gap year, because they found what they were truly passionate about. A large majority also said that taking a gap year had helped them acquire skills like self-sufficiency, independence, and cultural understanding. Learning these skills on their own helped them to be successful in careers, many of which said they wouldn’t have the jobs they have now if it weren’t for those skills. 

Gap years can be used as a creative, productive break from usual sources of stress for students, i.e the classroom. Taking a break between before starting a new stage in life shouldn’t be looked down upon, instead taking a gap year should be viewed as a new opportunity to move out, apply for a job, travel the world or find what it is you like to do. Allowing students to have a period of time to themselves that allows them to make decisions on their own terms can teach lessons that the classroom never will.