A gap year is more than just a year off after high school or during college. It’s a valuable time to gain experience, save money and improve future job satisfaction.* Whether you had to take a break due to the pandemic or you’re looking to explore your passions, there are plenty of benefits to taking a gap year. Let’s walk through some examples and what you should consider before committing to a gap year.
Potential Benefits of a Gap Year
If you make the most of your gap year, you’ll be able to enjoy benefits for years to come:
- Gain work experience: Whether you take on an internship or part-time job, you can learn invaluable skills that schools don’t teach. For example, you can get a feel for whether a certain field is right for you moving forward. You can also gain professional skills useful in any field or position. Going forward, your job experience during your gap year can be used on your resume, potentially helping you qualify for future job and education opportunities.
- Save money: If you’re trying to save more money for a higher education, taking a 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. You can keep your savings secure and help it grow gradually with a savings account.
- Explore your passions: In addition to work pursuits, a gap year is your opportunity to further explore your passions or hobbies. This might be the perfect opportunity to join a political campaign, write a novel, record some music or learn how to crochet. Your hobby might even open the door to future career opportunities!
- Volunteer: Volunteering lets you combine a cause you’re passionate about with an opportunity to grow your skills. Find a charity or organization—locally, nationally or globally—that matches your interests at VolunteerMatch or International Volunteer HQ.
- Travel: Though the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our travel landscape, you may still find international opportunities that can help you learn and grow. Whether you learn new skills at a job abroad, work on your ability to converse in a foreign language or simply experience a culture different from your own, you can pick up a lot with some globe-trotting.
- 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. It’s a great way to learn if a job is right for you and what you’ll need to get there.
- Advance your education: Many universities offer school-sponsored gap year programs. Some will even allow you to earn college credits during your year off. Check with your school to see what resources they offer.
Considerations Before Committing to a Gap Year
Before committing to taking a gap year, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my future goals? After your gap year, do you plan to attend a four-year college? Or maybe you’re going to enter the workforce? Keep your long-term goals in mind as you map out your gap year.
- What’s my budget? Overspending during your gap year could make it hard to afford school once the year is over. Consider the cost versus benefits carefully before spending money on travel or pricy housing.
- Have I done my research? If you plan to take part in a school’s gap year deferral program, be sure to learn the qualification, time and cost requirements, if any. Do you have a plan in place for after 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.
Helping You Achieve Your Goals
Navy Federal Credit Union is here for our members, no matter what path they take. If you need guidance on reaching your gap year goals, our Personal Finance Counseling services are here to help. To prepare for the costs of higher education, visit the MakingCents section centered on paying for college.
*Source: Gap Year Association.