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10 Reasons to Take a Gap Year

Taking a year off before attending college can improve your university experience.

December 10, 2013

If you have been accepted to the college of your choice and intend to take a gap year, inform the admissions office by May 1 to arrange to hold your spot at the university.

College-bound students who are considering taking a year off before continuing their education after high school is a well-established tradition in many European countries. In the U.S., however, the practice has been less common until recently.

Now that taking a gap year has gained in popularity, students across the country are travelling and/or working abroad, doing internships, volunteering or getting jobs in prospective fields. Not sure if the gap year is right for you? Read on for popular reasons students choose to take a year off. You may find that a gap year is just what you need to enhance your college education.

Reassure your parents that a gap year doesn’t mean you’re giving up on college. Outline your plan for the gap year and highlight all the benefits it will have on your character and academic career.

Here are 10 reasons why taking time off before starting college is a great idea:

1. Recharge Your Academic Battery

You’ve spent 12 years as a student and the better part of the last year conducting an exhaustive college search, completing your college application and going through a rigorous admissions process. Before you embark on a major and pursue a degree program, it may be time for a break. Taking a year off before returning to school will afford you the opportunity to approach the next phase of your education with a fresh start and renewed vigor while staving off academic burnout. Don’t worry; college will still be there when you return, just make sure you set everything up!

2. Continue Your College Search

Many students find the college selection process to be an arduous experience. Maybe you weren’t accepted into your top schools. Or you didn’t find the college of your dreams during your college search. You can use your gap year to continue your college search for the right school, while taking classes or engaging in other activities to strengthen your college application. You can reapply to colleges and universities to start in January or the following September.

3. Decide on Your Major

No idea what major you want to pursue? A gap year can allow you to find your academic focus before you start your degree program. Perhaps you can take community college or online courses to learn more about a particular field of study. Preparation now may help in earning degrees later.

4. See the World

If you’ve never traveled abroad, a gap year can give you the opportunity. In addition to broadening your horizons, travel can be a valuable asset when you return to your degree program. Think you want to be a history major? Visit places steeped in history, like Rome. Interested in a foreign language? Immersing yourself in the foreign language and culture is the best way to master it. Travelling also helps broaden your perspective on life. The experiences you have could lead to new discoveries about yourself and interests.

5. Build Confidence

Being on your own in your gap year can not only be fun but will also help you build your self-confidence and maturity level. Look at the gap year as a positive transition from family home to college dorm life.

6. Add to Your Résumé

A gap year can be the start to your career. Perhaps there are internships available in one or more of the careers you are considering. Or you could earn extra money to help defray your upcoming college costs. Either way, you’ll be adding a valuable notch to your résumé, which will help you when you enter the work force after earning your college degree.

7. Easier Transition to Careers

For some students, entering the working world after college is a shock, after years spent in an academic environment. Learning about what’s out there, paying bills and forging your way outside of school will give you a leg up on other college graduates.

8. Give Back

Spending a gap year as a volunteer in an organization like the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps can provide you with a great sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Programs like AmeriCorps can even help you earn money for school. An experience like this can help boost your résumé as well.

9. Take a Risk

There is much to be said for earning a degree from an accredited college or university. But there is also a lot to be learned from the university of life. You may never again have the opportunity to travel the world, pursue your passion or learn a new skill.

10. Get an Internship

Obtaining an internship in the area you’re interested in studying, or in the career field you’d like to pursue, is an effective way of learning more about that industry. This will help you bring practical, real-world experience into your college education, and it can get you some career contacts to contact after you graduate.

Quick Tips

  • If you have been accepted to the college of your choice and intend to take a gap year, inform the admissions office by May 1 to arrange to hold your spot at the university. Enrollment in some majors programs might be limited, so you want to make sure the school will hold your place.
  • Reassure your parents that a gap year doesn’t mean you’re giving up on college. Outline your plan for the gap year and highlight all the benefits it will have on your character and academic career.
  • Keep track of your experiences with blog posts and plenty of pictures. You’ll want to remember this year.
  • If your parents won’t allow you to take a gap year, or you don’t want to enter college a year after your friends, consider taking a semester abroad instead. Many students go abroad during their junior years of college, and many schools have study abroad programs in international cities to simplify the process.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

How to Find a Gap Year Program
How to Use MOOCs to Get Your Dream Job
The Gap-Year Options
Study Abroad: How to Survive College in a Different Country

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