A gap year is more than just a year off after high school or during college. It’s a great opportunity to gain life skills, save money and improve future job prospects. Whether you had to take a break due to the pandemic or you’re looking to explore your passions, there’s plenty of benefits to the gap year experience for college students. Let’s walk through some ideas and considerations before planning a gap year.
Potential Benefits of a Gap Year
Whether your gap year activities include teaching English, serving in AmeriCorps, being an au pair or working on a conservation project, you’ll be able to enjoy benefits for years to come:
- Gain work experience: Gap year students learn valuable skills that schools don’t always teach. You can get a feel for whether a certain field is right for you or gain professional skills. Your job experience during this time can go on your resume, helping you qualify for future job and education opportunities.
- Save money: If you’re trying to save more money for higher education, taking a full year to work and apply for scholarships can help you reach your goal. If you’re able to, living with family or friends could help cut back on expenses.
- Explore your passions: In addition to work pursuits, a gap year is your chance to explore your passions or hobbies. This might be the perfect opportunity to take a backpacking trip, write a novel, record some music or learn to scuba dive. Your hobby might even open the door to future career opportunities!
- Volunteer programs: Volunteering lets you combine a cause you’re passionate about with an opportunity to grow your skills. Find a charity or organization that matches your interests at VolunteerMatch or International Volunteer HQ. Consider a program that will get you out of your comfort zone and let you try something for the first time.
- Travel: You may find international opportunities that can help you learn and grow. Whether you gain new skills at a job abroad, learn a new language or simply experience new cultures different from your own, you can add a lot to your college experience with some globetrotting.
- Grow your network: With your career aspirations in mind, take some time to join professional organizations and attend conferences related to your field of interest. Connect with people who do what you want to do and ask if they’d be willing to sit down for an informational interview.
- Advance your education: Many universities offer enrollment in formal gap year programs. Some even allow you to earn college credits during your year off. A structured gap year program may even offer financial aid opportunities.
Considerations Before Committing to a Gap Year
As you consider these options, ask yourself:
- What are my future goals? After your gap year, do you plan to attend a 4-year college? Or, maybe you’re going to enter the workforce? Keeping your long-term goals in mind will help you plan the best gap year.
- What’s my budget? Overspending during your gap year could make it hard to afford school later. Consider the costs carefully before spending money on travel or pricey housing. Remember—you can have a productive gap year right in your local community.
- Have I done my research? If you plan to take part in a school’s gap year deferral program, be sure you understand the requirements.
- Do I have a plan in place for when the year is over? Make sure you map out a plan and timeline for returning to school or work once your gap year has ended.
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.