Excited about college but not quite ready to start? Each year, students across America are choosing to postpone their traditional academic plans and participate in a gap year experience.
What is a Gap Year?
A gap year is a year spent taking time off between life stages. An increasingly popular option, it provides time for traveling, volunteering, learning a new language, or experiencing any number of other activities for personal growth. Typically, students take a gap year after graduating from high school and before attending college.
Why Take a Gap Year?
While there are many compelling reasons to take a gap year, one of the most common is the opportunity for students to explore their interests and develop a purpose for their future. Students can take a break from intense coursework and focus on enriching life experiences.
Whether they spend the year traveling, volunteering, working, or all three, students who have completed a gap year are often revitalized for their return to the academic world the following year. According to David Hawkins, director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, taking a gap year "could actually help students succeed in college," since participants may be more focused, mature, and motivated for their undergraduate experience.
Many students also find that their gap year allows them to help others. For students choosing to spend the year volunteering abroad, some of the benefits include:
Gap Year Options
There are no rules when it comes to taking a gap year, so the possibilities are truly endless. Luckily, there are organizations that specialize in helping students organize their adventures. For example, some companies assist with everything from finding a host family, to setting up the volunteer project, to taking care of meals and travel insurance.
Areas of focus students may choose from for their gap year activities include:
Things to Consider
As exciting as a year off before college may sound, there are several important issues to consider before embarking on a gap year.
Featured Program: Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad is one of the largest volunteer abroad organizations in the world. Founded in 1992, Projects Abroad sends over 10,000 people abroad each year on a variety of service projects and internships overseas. All participants receive unparalleled in-country support from their full-time, professional staff to ensure that the experience is safe, worthwhile and fun. Destinations are available in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the South Pacific. Their Global Gap program takes gap year students to 5 countries around the world over the course of an academic year. Learn Moreor request a brochure online.