Ultimate Guide to Taking a Gap Year

Find your perfect value college

ValueColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

A gap year is when a student takes a year off between their high school graduation and their first year of college. In some cases, students look at a gap year as their last chance to spend time as a youth without the upcoming responsibilities that come with being an adult. Others look at it quite the opposite. They embrace adulthood and look for ways to prove that they are ready to be self-sufficient. They get a job, buy a car, and begin to live life to the fullest, knowing that the next few school years will be spent with their noses buried in their textbooks.

Gap years can mean something different to each student. Some use gap years to mentally prepare for long hours in class and sometimes difficult academic challenges they will face over the next four to six years. A gap year may give them an opportunity to decide just what career path they want to follow. It gives them time to explore their options and choose a career path that will allow them to make the most of all their skills and abilities. In some cases, it gives them time to rethink their original goals and make a complete change in career direction.

Featured Programs

What Are the Benefits of Taking a Gap Year?

There are several benefits to taking a gap year between high school graduation and your first tentative steps as a freshman. The freedom of a gap year can clear your mind and allow you to re-think your original goals. On the flip side of that, it helps you narrow your focus. Instead of wanting to be a law enforcement officer, you may decide to choose a specialization like forensics or criminal investigations. You can explore all of your options when you have the time away from class to just look and learn at what each degree program really offers you. You can make your final decision and actually start to take the first steps toward building your career by finding work in the field.

Another benefit of a gap year is that it gives the student a chance to start out fresh. Time away from the classroom will allow the student a chance to relax. They can begin to prepare for the hectic class schedule they will have to get used to over the next few years. Taking a break will help to clear the mind so they can focus more efficiently. Embracing a gap year allows the student to put high school in the past and begin to take advantage of many of the opportunities they will receive once they start school as a freshman. The time spent between the two different types of educational programs is like recharging the batteries in the brain so they can begin to learn in a new way.

Is A Gap Year Worth It?

While there are definite risks when taking a gap year, students who do take one believe that it is well worth the worry and risk. As they leave high school behind and transition from a youth to an adult, they are often presented with both challenges and opportunities they can use to grow as a person. A gap year allows them to explore those opportunities more fully without fear of jeopardizing their academic career or standing within their college or university. Some students may be able to find work in their chosen career field, while others take a chance and choose to travel abroad. Both offer valuable experiences that the student can draw from for the rest of their lives. The key is following a path that allows you to learn about yourself and the world around you. This will let you make the most out of your gap year so you can return to school with the confidence you need to succeed.

Gap years are worth it for students who choose to take them for the right reasons. Students who choose to take a gap year just because they don’t like school are at the highest risk of not returning at all. Getting through high school was a struggle and many dread the thought of having to return to school at the college level. These students pursue their degree programs half-heartedly and often drop out after the first year or two. Students who are dedicated to their education, always find a way to learn. This works to their advantage when the gap year is over and they have valuable knowledge they bring with them when they return.

Should I Do a Formal Gap Year Program?

If you choose to do a formal gap year, you will need to make a few preparations. Once you leave high school, you will make sure you can take care of things on your own. It’s important to have the right type of health insurance coverage and also find a viable source of income to get you through the next year. If you want to make the most of your gap year, you will have to cover all of your bases. One of the ways to do this is to find a part-time or full-time job that will allow you to work toward your goals and pay you enough to support yourself. You may even qualify for benefits like health insurance.

Individuals who choose to pursue a gap year during which they can travel abroad. They can choose to work their way along by doing odd jobs. Another, more cost-effective, way to travel is to join a non-profit organization and allow yourself to be deployed. The Salvation Army, Americorps, Peace Corps, and Teach for America allow volunteers to use their skills to help others. In return for volunteering their time, the individual has their expenses paid during the time they are traveling. The only things they pay for are personal items they purchase. The benefits of this type of gap year are many. Not only do you get to take a year away from school, but you also get to earn valuable experience in the process. As a student, your gap year should teach you about yourself, the world around you, and what you want to accomplish as you move forward.

Is There Any Danger in Taking a Gap Year?

Taking a gap year can be dangerous, especially if you are not fully committed to your education. The problem with a gap year is that it reminds you how easy it is to not have to worry about schoolwork and going to class. If you struggle in school and have trouble making it through your classes, taking a gap year may give you a taste of freedom that will sabotage the rest of your education. Instead of taking a gap year, commit to at least two classes per semester. This will still keep you in school while giving you a small taste of the freedom you want so badly. While this will take you down a much longer path toward getting your degree, at least you will be working towards it at a steady pace and still maintaining your freedom.

Another risk when taking a gap year is losing your momentum. Taking a year off may cause you to lose your place so to speak. People tend to forget the things they’ve learned when they take time away from their studies. This may mean that you will have to take one or two of your previous classes over to catch back up from where you left off. This can be incredibly discouraging, especially if you are a solid B student or better. If you feel that this might be you, take the initiative and study your notes and textbooks from your previous classes. This will give you a chance to keep the information fresh in your mind so that you can pick up where you left off when you make the decision to return to school and finish your education.

How Do I Get a Deferred Admission?

Many colleges and universities have jumped on the gap year bandwagon themselves, offering numerous policies that make them very gap-year friendly.

In order to get a deferred admission, you will need to apply for one. A deferred admission means that you have chosen to take a year off in spite of being accepted into a school’s degree program. You can defer your admission for one semester or one year. The deferment allows you to take the time off as a gap year or for personal reasons. If you choose to take a gap year, it’s important that you get a letter of deferment showing your time off has been approved by the school. The letter will allow you to return to the school the following year (or semester) and reclaim your spot without being penalized.

In order to get a deferred admission, you will have to apply for it through your school. It is up to the discretion of the school whether or not they will allow you to take time away from school. If they choose to deny your deferred admissions request, you will have to report to school at the appropriate time or risk losing your place on the admission roster. If your deferment is approved, you will receive a letter that states the length of your deferment as well as when the deferment will end and your admission to the school is required. If you receive the letter and your request for a deferment is approved, it is important that you keep the letter in a safe place so that you will have it when you are ready to return to class.

What Are the Benefits of Traveling During a Gap Year?

Traveling during a gap year offers plenty of benefits to students who like to explore. Traveling during a gap year offers students an opportunity to see the world that they may never have again. Once they enter college, their money and time is wrapped in school and possibly taking care of a family. If you choose to travel, you can basically choose your own path. Some students choose to tour Europe, while others may simply choose to travel the United States. Your travel options are endless. Pick a destination and start exploring.

Rarely does a person fresh out of high school have the money to travel the world. Some pay for the trips through loans or gifts from family. Others earn money as they travel by taking on small jobs in each location they arrive at. This gives them an opportunity to learn more about each area as well as their money, traditions, and culture. Hands-on experience is the best way to learn about the world. The experiences they have will never be found in a book and will never be duplicated once they graduate from college.

Another benefit of taking a gap year to travel is to look for areas that you may consider moving to after you graduate. Depending on the career path you choose, you can choose to live anywhere in the world. There are some degrees that require you to live in a larger city to pursue. Smaller rural towns have little need for stockbrokers or marketing strategists. If you plan on traveling during your gap year, make it a point to visit certain areas where you may want to relocate to after you graduate. Look through different neighborhoods and try to find an area where you feel at home. It will make the trip worthwhile and you can choose to visit it again to make sure you have chosen the right place for you and your family.

What Are the Benefits of Working During a Gap Year?

Working during a gap year offers benefits that you can continue to take advantage of throughout your career. If you take a gap year, you can use the opportunity to find a job within your chosen career field. Even if the job is an entry-level position, it will still give you a head start on your career. Working a few hours a week in your chosen career field during your gap year will make a great first impression on your resume. Since you are starting your career in one of the lower positions, you will be learning everything from the ground up, some of which may not be taught in your classes. This experience will be invaluable and may also be applied as course credit as you continue to pursue your education.

Working during a gap year will allow you to save some money so that if you do need to take a short period of time off to go back to school, you can do so without incurring any type of financial hardship. If you save enough money, you can eventually treat yourself to a vacation after you complete your degree. Most people who take on a part-time or full-time job during a gap year, try to stay with it when their time off is over. While sometimes it just isn’t possible, online degree programs make it easier for students to continue working even if they have a full-time job.

Working in your chosen career field is the best way to move forward with your career while you are still in school. Not only do you get to advance your career while you are in school, but many employers will also reimburse you for all of your educational expenses if you choose to continue to work for them indefinitely. You will cover the initial expense of your education, but as soon as you successfully pass your classes, your employer will reimburse you for any expenses you incurred during your classes.

Can a Gap Year Be Held Against Me Later?

In most cases, taking a gap year will not penalize you later. Whether you choose to go to work in your chosen career field during your gap year or travel abroad, you will be learning new things and exploring your career options. Every place you travel to will hold a lesson and each job will teach you new skills that will allow you to move forward when you are ready to take on more responsibilities. The more experience you have, the higher your earning potential will be as well.

The only real way to be penalized for taking a gap year is that it will take longer to earn your degree. For some that may work to their advantage. Others may choose to speed up the process by taking accelerated degree programs online. This allows you to work as well as attend class. Accelerated degree programs allow you to make up for lost time giving you an opportunity to earn a two-year degree in about 18 months. A four-year degree can be earned in about 36 months if you stick to the accelerated schedule. Accelerated degree programs are the perfect solution for individuals who wanted to take a gap year and still complete their degree program on time.

What If I Choose to Take a Gap Year and Then Decide I’m Ready to Return to School?

Individuals who choose to take a gap year can return to school any time they choose. The only time that this would not be so easy is if you have a deferment letter from the school you had already been admitted into. In order to pass on the deferment and return to school, you would have to get the school to reconsider their choice and allow you to return to school much sooner than the end date of your deferment. While most people choose to finish their gap year there are many who decide to return to school early. Some have specific goals in mind when they choose to take a gap year. When those goals have been reached, returning to school seems like the best option.

Individuals who took a gap year to explore what employment options were available may have been pleasantly surprised to find a job they really like rather quickly. Instead of waiting to return to school, they can go back rather quickly and continue to work toward their degree. Even though they may not have graduated yet, they may be able to apply for and be considered for opportunities for advancement. The sooner they earn their degree, the quicker they will be able to take on more responsibilities and earn a higher wage.

Making the Decision to Take a Gap Year

If you are considering a gap year, make sure to think things through carefully. Plan ahead. Know what you want to accomplish and take the time to go over any issues you may face if you decide to take a gap year and then change your mind. A gap year can be a great idea if you plan to take advantage of all the things you can accomplish during that time. If you know what career field you would like to pursue, take the time to go over your employment options. Go over your time frame and decide whether you want to take off for six months or the full year.

If you know what your goals are and how long you will need to accomplish them it will be easy for you to take a gap year and accomplish any goals or tasks you set your mind to. If you make the most of your gap year, you can take advantage of almost any opportunity you choose. With online degree programs, you can complete your education and at the same time continue working at the job you started during your gap year. The ultimate goal is to make the most out of every situation and use opportunities to the fullest advantage.

Gap years are not for everyone. If you choose to take a year to pursue other goals, make the most of it in every way possible. Chase your dreams. Look for your dream job and explore your world. Take advantage of the time while you can. For many, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Once you complete your gap year, you can resume your education and share your experiences with others.


Top 50 Best Pre-College Summer Programs

Top 35 Colleges That Support A Gap Year

Top 25 Best Value Online High Schools

  • 25 Best Value Pre-Law Summer Programs
  • Featured Programs

    Aya Andrews


    Aya Andrews is a passionate educator and mother of two, with a diverse background that has shaped her approach to teaching and learning. Born in Metro Manila, she now calls San Diego home and is proud to be a Filipino-American. Aya earned her Masters degree in Education from San Diego State University, where she focused on developing innovative teaching methods to engage and inspire students.

    Prior to her work in education, Aya spent several years as a continuing education consultant for KPMG, where she honed her skills in project management and client relations. She brings this same level of professionalism and expertise to her work as an educator, where she is committed to helping each of her students achieve their full potential.

    In addition to her work as an educator, Aya is a devoted mother who is passionate about creating a nurturing and supportive home environment for her children. She is an active member of her community, volunteering her time and resources to support local schools and organizations. Aya is also an avid traveler, and loves to explore new cultures and cuisines with her family.

    With a deep commitment to education and a passion for helping others succeed, Aya is a true inspiration to those around her. Her dedication to her craft, her community, and her family is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of her life.

    Find your perfect value college

    ValueColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

    Enter a search word or phrase