College Planning

What is a Gap Year?

So you’ve heard that taking a gap year could be interesting. But what is it, how do you do it, and what happens after?

A gap year looks different for everyone. Basically, it’s a full year or a semester of learning experiences that might include travel, volunteering, paid work, an internship, or a combination of these things. It’s typically taken after high school graduation before starting college.

Whatever way you choose to do it, you’ll discover that a successful gap year can have a huge impact. Many students walk away feeling as though they understand themselves better. This is mainly because they’ve been able to learn more about the world and step out of their comfort zones.


Why You Should Take a Gap Year

Taking a gap year lets you reset and recharge. The last year of high school is packed with academic pressures. After finishing projects, taking exams, and tackling college applications, many students find that an extended break before college is a way to recover from burnout.

That kind of recovery can happen through a process of discovery. Taking a gap year can teach you about people or cultures different from your own. It can teach you how to work with personalities you’re not used to. Best of all, it can teach you to find out more about yourself. You can learn what you’re capable of and what’s important to you.

In fact, one outcome of a gap year could be having the time to explore your passions. And that can help you figure out what you want to study in college.

Keep in mind that a gap year isn’t taking a year off. It’s a year on. It’s a year of doing, moving, thinking, planning, and taking advantage of the moment. Don’t think of a gap year as an alternative to starting college. It’s an experience that can prepare you for college. You build a sense of self-awareness and independence—valuable skills for progressing in any major. Beyond college, a gap year can help you stand out in your résumé.


How You Should Plan for a Gap Year

When planning your gap year, it’s a good idea to think through what you’d like to learn. This will play a big role in shaping your experience. If your focus is learning new cultures, explore a different country or city. If you’re looking for professional experience, find an internship. Want a mix of both? Start off with a structured work opportunity and then transition to traveling.

Good planning is the key to a successful gap year. Everyone’s plan will look different. An ideal place to start is talking to your high school counselor, who might have resources to help you.

You should also consider what happens at the end of your gap year. If your goal is to continue on to college, you’ll need to include that as part of your plan.

If you’re considering any specific schools or have already been accepted, find out if they have a gap year policy. Any information you find out could be factored into your decisions. Some colleges may allow you to defer admission while others may require you to reapply. If you’re able to defer, you may have to pay a deposit to hold your spot .

Ultimately, taking a gap year is your decision. With the right planning and goal setting, you can have an unforgettable experience that prepares you for college and beyond.


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