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Should I Take a Gap Year Before College?

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Nicole Adams

A gap year generally refers to a period of time between high school and college when a student takes a break from academics to pursue other activities like traveling or volunteering. A gap year can also be taken while a student is already enrolled in college. What was previously frowned upon and seen as an unconventional path has become more accepted in recent years, here’s why. 

Benefits of Taking a Gap Year Before College

Malia Obama’s decision to take a gap year before heading off to Harvard in the fall of 2017 renewed the debate about taking a year off between high school and college. While some are hesitant to pursue a gap year for fear of starting college “late”, it’s actually a great way to prepare yourself for college, and studies have shown that students often have higher GPAs and are more involved in campus life. Instead of going to college straight away, especially if you’re unsure what you want to do, this break allows you time to discover the path you really want to pursue. 

A gap year allows you time to get to know yourself. What do you believe? What does happiness and success look like to you? What are you passionate about? You may discover it’s different from your family and friends. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, striking out on your own and stepping out of your comfort zone offers you an opportunity to find yourself, dabble, explore, follow and fine-tune your interests so that when you’re ready for college, you’ll get the most out it and your future career. 

In addition to taking a break from 12+ years in school, a gap year gives you a chance to see the world in a different way and learn and experience things you’d never encounter in a traditional classroom. Especially if you choose to venture abroad, you’ll be immersed in another culture, in a different landscape, and will likely develop useful life skills and maybe even learn a new language. You’ll forge lifelong friendships, create unforgettable memories, and make a positive impact in the world as you set out to be the best version of yourself. 

What Do You Do During a Gap Year? 

Taken either right after high school or between college years (often junior and senior), a gap year is a structured break from formal academics that offers a chance to travel, volunteer, explore and discover yourself as well as consider what type of education and career you want to pursue. The ultimate goal of a gap year is to discover yourself, what you love, what you’re skilled at, what the world needs and what you can make a career of. 

Travel is probably the most common gap year endeavor. During an immersion program, usually abroad, you spend an extended period of time in an unfamiliar place surrounded by an unfamiliar culture. This experience usually includes living with a host family, taking language classes, and engaging in local cultural activities and practices. An immersion gap year pushes you outside of your comfort zone and opens up your worldview.

A volunteer gap year emphasizes leaving a positive impact and allows you to explore interests from economic development to sustainable agriculture. You’ll learn new skills and experience diverse cultures while working in a local community. If you want to continue more rigorous learning during your time off, you can opt for an academic gap year which are generally offered by universities and might even allot you college credit. It’s also a great way to explore academic interests without the pressure of choosing a major.

Traveling and living abroad, immersing yourself in a different culture, learning a new language, and seeing the world from a different perspective is a transformative experience that can help you discover your passions and purpose. We’d love to see you on a trip! Give us a call 800.982.9203 or contact us today.  

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