Benefits of a Gap Year

Why college directly after high school may not be your child's best course

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The general progression of life events seems to be to graduate high school and attend college, but this may not work for all students. Some may choose to opt for a college alternative, rather than attending college. Others may have a desire to continue their formal education, but want to take a year off before doing so. This time off is often referred to as a gap year.

While it may make some parents uneasy, there are many benefits of allowing your child some space between high school graduation and college enrollment. Read on for the ways a gap year can be beneficial for your child.

Allows Ownership of Their Education

One of the biggest benefits of a gap year is that it allows young adults the time and space they may need to take ownership of their educations. The majority of teens go through high school with the expectation that they will enter college the fall following graduation. Basically, they’re on that trajectory because it’s what's been expected of them.

However, oftentimes in that situation, teens arrive at on campus not quite ready for college and more interested in the lifestyle than the academics. They’re looking forward to living away from home and enjoying the freedom that offers. There’s nothing wrong with being excited about those aspects of college life, but some students may allow academics to take a backseat.

However, young adults who have taken a year off from school often enter college because they recognize the personal benefits of doing so. A young adult who enters the workforce after high school graduation may log a couple of months of 40- and 60-hour work weeks before deciding that if he's going to work that hard, he wants to get an education and do something he enjoys.

Because he has seen the personal benefits of a college degree, he decides to take ownership of his education and is much more committed to the work involved than he’d have been if he’d gone straight into college simply because it was expected of him.

Figuring out Their Career Aptitudes and Goals

Another benefit of a gap year is that it gives teens some time to figure out their career aptitudes and goals. Many students graduate high school without a clear picture of the profession they’d like to pursue. This lack of direction can result in switching majors and taking classes that they may not ultimately need towards their degree.

A gap year can be used to volunteer, intern, or do entry-level work in the field in which teens think they’d like to work, giving them a more accurate picture of what the field really entails.

Earning Money for College

While there are options for financial aid and scholarships, many students may be responsible for some portion of their college expenses. A gap year provides an opportunity for teens to earn money to pay college expenses and avoid colleges loans. Graduating debt-free can make a gap year well worth the time invested.

Travel and See the World

A gap year can also provide an opportunity for young adults to travel. Taking time to immerse one’s self in the culture of other countries (or even other regions of one’s own country) can provide valuable life experiences and a greater understanding of our world and its people.

A gap year can allow a young adult time to travel before the responsibilities of career and family make doing so more expensive and difficult to plan.

Become More Prepared for College

Some teens may need an extra year to be fully prepared for college. Events such as personal illness or family crisis may have caused a teen to fall behind academically. Teens with learning struggles may need a bit more time to complete their high school coursework. For these kids, the gap year may be treated more as a fifth year of high school, but without carrying a full course load.

While a student is working on courses to complete her high school transcript, her schedule may allow her more time to invest in other gap year experiences, such as working, volunteering, or traveling.

Overall, a gap year is an excellent option for allowing students time to define their goals or gain life experience so that they are better prepared to enter college with a plan and a purpose.