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    As a prospective college student you may be asking yourself the following questions: Should I take a gap year? What does taking a gap year mean? How do I take a gap year? How does a gap year work? Or maybe you already know the answers to these questions. 

    Maybe you are actively planning your gap year and are curious about gap year programs abroad, gap year programs in the U.S., gap year programs that pay, and other gap year ideas.

    Regardless of where you are in your planning process, in this article, we will provide you with the resources you need to help you on your journey!

    Reasons to take a gap year

    Many high school seniors don’t know what they want to study, never mind what their career goals are. And all of the students who’ve already made up their minds? Most of them will end up changing majors, transferring colleges, or taking time off from school throughout their college careers. 

    There are lots of reasons to pursue gap year programs after high school, but perhaps most importantly, taking a gap year will give you more time to engage in self-discovery and reflect thoughtfully and critically on your goals for the future. 

    That said, let’s take a look at some common reasons students choose to take a gap year:

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    Still, other students may choose to use a gap year to pursue internships or gain work experience. Not only will these opportunities grant students insight into their prospective careers, but they will also increase their overall maturity. 

    Taking a gap year may even help distinguish students from other college applicants, especially if they are interested in applying to highly-selective schools, such as Ivy League colleges. This is because passion, initiative, and meaningful engagement with one’s interests are key factors in what college admissions officers look for in an applicant

    It’s also important to realize, however, that you can take a gap year after being accepted into college. In fact, schools such as Harvard and MIT encourage students to take gap years, allowing admitted students to defer their enrollment for a year in order to do so. There are even schools — such as Princeton  — that provide university-sponsored gap year programs.

    When to take a gap year

    There are many different types of gap years. Most students are interested in gap year ideas before college. That said, you can take a gap year during college as well.

    Sometimes college students wish they had given themselves more time to figure out what they really want to do. These students may choose to take time off from school to refocus during a gap year. Similarly, for students wondering: Can I take a gap year before transferring? The answer is yes! 

    The main objective of a gap year is to give yourself time to discover your true goals and passions before engaging in more school. So again, for students wondering: Can I take a gap year during college? Of course, you can. 

    The most important thing about pursuing a productive gap year is to have a plan. This takes us to our next point: What are the different types of gap years? 

    Different types of gap years

    A gap year can provide you with endless opportunities for growth and self-discovery. That said, the primary limitations are your budget and your imagination. 

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    One of the most important things to decide when planning your gap year is whether to engage in a structured program or whether to independently design your gap year. Some students crave freedom and autonomy during their gap year. Other students want a bit more structure. 

    Regardless of your decision, a productive gap year requires a plan, motivation, and focus. If you don’t have all of these things, your gap year won’t feel very meaningful. That said, neither structure is right or wrong. It all depends on your strengths, weaknesses, and overall goals. 

    Are you wondering: why should I take a gap year? or Is it good to take a gap year before college? 

    If so, read on! Here are some popular reasons why students decide to take off time from school.

    A passion or desire for:

    • Travel
    • Volunteerism
    • Internships
    • Work experience
    • Language learning
    • Adventure
    • Developing a skill

    Taking a gap year pros and cons

    Should I take a gap year before college? Review these pros and cons of taking a gap year to help you better decide if a gap year is the right choice for you.

    Pros of taking a gap year

    There are lots of pros to engaging in a gap year — either independently or as a part of a structured program. Let’s take a look at some of the potential benefits:

    A gap year is the perfect time to figure out what you are passionate about. Use this time of self-discovery to better figure out who you are and what you would like to do.

    Increased maturity
    Oftentimes students who take gap years are more mature when they attend college. Taking a break from school to travel, volunteer, or gain work experience can give you important insights into what you care about and ideally, what you want your life and career to look like.

    Being able to take a break from school
    Many students feel burnt out after graduating high school. After all, you’ve been in school since preschool! Being able to take a break from school can help you gain more perspective and approach college with more insight and maturity.

    Ability to gain work experience
    A gap year is a great time to gain work experience. Especially if you are interested in exploring a potential career. Gain experience early and decide if this is the right career for you. Taking a year to work can also help you better focus on your educational goals.

    Opportunity to develop a skill
    Do you have a passion you’re itching to pursue? Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a book or learn how to grow your own food. Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn to speak another language. A gap year is a great time to develop a new skill.

    Ability to save money
    Some students decide to take a gap year so that they can save money for college. Other students may feel that by taking a gap year they will be less likely to change their major or want to transfer colleges later on. Either way, a gap year has the potential to help save you money.

    Cons of taking a gap year

    Gap years are not for everyone and there are several cons to taking a gap year. In this section, we will review some of these cons.

    Losing motivation and momentum
    It can be easy to lose motivation and momentum during a gap year, especially if you don’t take enough time to plan it out and have clear objectives. For some students, it can be hard to go back to studying and taking tests after time off from school. Some students may even decide not to go back to school. 

    Social stigma
    Although gap years are increasing in popularity, unfortunately, there is still some social stigma surrounding them. Some people don’t understand what a gap year is and may be judgmental about your choice to take time off from school. 

    Feeling isolated
    There are times when taking a gap year may feel lonely. Especially since your other high school friends are all starting college together. You might feel like you are missing out or like you don’t have as many things in common with your friends as you used to. It’s important to remember, however, that you will make new friends, too, during your gap year. 

    Gap year expenses
    Gap years can be very expensive. Especially if you want to travel. That said, there are gap year opportunities that pay or provide stipends or room and board. If finances are a deciding factor, conduct your research thoroughly. There are cost-effective gap year opportunities available to you!

    Popular gap year programs

    The above links offer a wealth of resources and opportunities as you plan your gap year. You may be interested in living and working abroad as an au pair (someone who provides childcare) while you learn a new language. Maybe you want to volunteer abroad through the Peace Corps or volunteer domestically through Americorps. Maybe you’re interested in agriculture and are interested in WWOOFing or have always wanted to spend time living at sea (Seamester). 

    Still, other students will want to spend their gap years pursuing job opportunities, internships, or perhaps trying their hand at freelancing, tutoring, or teaching English abroad. Whatever the case, know that there are lots of opportunities available to you!

    Key takeaways and moving forward

    There are endless reasons for deciding to take a gap year. Just as there are endless gap year ideas. To get the most out of your gap year, however, you will need to have a plan and some amount of structure. Everyone is different. This is why it is important to take the time to reflect critically and thoughtfully on how you can design a gap year that will work for you. If you are serious about embarking on a gap year, you may want to explore The Gap Year Association and its different resources. If you feel like you could benefit from professional guidance, reach out to learn more about our services