Are you thinking about taking a gap year? You might even be asking, what is a gap year? If so, you’ve come to the right place. More and more people are taking gap years every year, so planning your gap year is only getting easier.
In this article, we’ll discuss what a gap year is when you might want to take it and even give you some suggestions of things you could do with your gap year. Of course, every gap year is unique, so you can make your gap year precisely what you want it to be!
First Things First: What is a Gap Year?
A gap year is a year that you use to take a nap or a break from your everyday life. This could mean taking a year off from school or pausing for a year to do something that interests you but is not really in line with your career path. It can manifest in various ways, so no one true definition of a gap year exists.
Typically, people spend their gap year doing something that is different from what they usually do. This could mean traveling for a year or living abroad and working in a new place for a year. Many people choose to create their own gap year plan and do things like renting a van to live in or backpack across Europe, but there are so many things that you can do with your gap year.
You could also do a gap year program. There are tons of programs out there that will help you find places to stay as you volunteer in a community or learn a new skill. These range from programs like NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School), where you learn backcountry skills for a semester, to Projects Abroad, where you can take part in a service project or internship during your gap year.
When to Take a Gap Year?
Gap years can be taken at all kinds of different points in time, but a few times are pretty common. The most common times people take gap years are right after high school or right after college. Both of these times are significant transitions in life, and it can be nice to enjoy the change instead of rushing through it. Some people take gap years in the middle of college, and some adults even take gap years from their jobs and lives.
When someone tells you that they are thinking of taking a gap year, your mind will likely think that they are going after they finish school. This is the most common time to go for a reason. As you finish high school and think about your future, you can usually choose to defer your admission to college for a year. This means that a college that accepts you will hold your place in the following year’s class, so you are free to take a gap year without the fear of not having something to come back to.
Similarly, as you finish up college and are thinking about either going to grad school or entering the workforce, you can often build in some freedom to your life. These natural transition points in your life are typically when most people opt to take their gap year. This is a great time to take some space and have a gap year.
What are the Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year?
The pros and cons of taking a gap year can vary immensely based on your specific circumstances, so don’t take this list as the gospel. Every person’s life is unique, so the pros and cons you will weigh are also unique. Make sure you consider the pros and cons specific to your life and the pros and cons that are general for gap years when trying to decide if a gap year is right for you.
1. Refresh and refocus
A gap year is a great time to refresh yourself and refocus on your goals. If you are finishing up school feeling burnt out and unmotivated, a gap year might be exactly what you need to get back on track and find that motivation again.
2. Work on important skills
Gap years can really push you. They can make you work on your interpersonal skills, or they can teach you all kinds of new skills. Depending on what you choose to do with your gap year, you can learn tons of new and essential skills throughout your year.
3. Can look good on a resume
Although gap years didn’t use to be as familiar, gap years are becoming more common and much more accepted than they used to be. A well-used gap year, or one that you use to grow or learn somehow, is often seen as very advantageous to your potential future employers on a resume or CV.
1. It can be a waste of time
Some people still think that all gap years are a waste of time, but there are definitely still gap years that are a waste of your time. If you choose to just take a year off and hang out at your parent’s house and not do anything, potential future employers or school admission counselors will view your gap year as a waste of time.
One of the most significant disadvantages of taking a gap year is that you will enter the next stage of your life with considerably less money. Regardless of what you choose to do with your gap year, it will likely be a costly year, so make sure that you take some time to figure out just how a gap year will fit into your budget.
3. Falling behind your peers
Some people worry that by taking a year off, they will fall behind their peers either academically or that getting a later start in the workforce will put them at a disadvantage. This can be the case for some highly competitive and fast-changing fields, so make sure that you pay attention to if a gap year is right for your future.
3 Things to Do During a Gap Year
There are tons of things that you could do with your gap year! Below are some of our favorite options, but this list is by no means complete. Remember that every gap year is different, so your gap year doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s gap year.
Participate in a gap year service program
There are so many programs out there that will allow you to give back to a community in some way. While some programs are specific to a skill, such as teaching English or providing basic medical help, others are super general and have many options. These programs are also offered to people of all ages, so whoever you are, there is a program for you.
Learn a new skill
Taking your gap year time to learn a new skill is a great use of time. This could mean attending an intensive program or just working while practicing your skill. You could even spend the time perfecting an old skill and building on it. This is a great time to go out and get any certification that you just haven’t had the time to do before.
WWOOF across a region
WWOOF, or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a great program that has been supporting gap years for ages. It allows you to travel around a region and live and work on organic farms. Typically you work for a set amount of time and are paid in room and board, meaning that you get an incredible experience at basically no cost. This is a great cost-effective way to experience your gap year.
While we only talked about the three options above, each of those options has tons of different possibilities and is each only one of hundreds of options that you could do for your gap year. The world really is your oyster, so don’t let what others do limit your imagination. If you can plan and afford something, then go make it happen for your gap year because there are no rules or limits to what you can do with a gap year.
Wrapping Things Up: When Should You Take a Gap Year?
Whether you choose to take your gap year after high school, after college, or later in life, making the most of your gap year has never been easier. With so many programs available for people of different interests and ages, gap years are growing rapidly in popularity both in the US and abroad. We hope you’re excited to start planning the gap year that is perfect for you now!