If you are considering a gap year for your son or daughter, here are nine compelling reasons to pursue this great option.
1. Find your passion or determine what isn’t
Sitting in a classroom isn’t the ideal place to figure out if you want to be a doctor, journalist, teacher, etc. Hands-on internships or volunteer work during a gap year let students experience what a particular field is like and whether or not it suits them.
2. Build self-confidence and independence
As soon as students step into a gap year, they are instantly more mature because they have to be. And they develop a fuller sense of themselves, undefined by their friends, family or culture.
3. Create your life for a year
A key proactive shift for many students is moving from “I have to…I should…” to “I choose!” Learning how to choose and create their lives at 17 or 18 stands them in very good stead in college and beyond.
4. Gain skills and build a resume before college and career
Gap-year students build effective resumes before stepping foot onto a college campus. And for many, in-the-world experience and good recommendations result in job placements down the line.
5. Take time to rejuvenate
After 12 years of classes, school fatigue is common. Statistical research by Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson, The Gap-Year Advantage: Helping Your Child Benefit from Time Off Before or During College, reveals a top reason students chose to take a gap year was that they felt “burned out.” A typical gap-year outcome for students is increased energy, enthusiasm and sense of relevance between the classroom and the world.
6. Improve chances for college acceptance
Mary Lou Bates, former director of admissions at Skidmore College, notes that gap-year freshman at Skidmore generally produce GPAs several percentage points higher than their peers. Most colleges realize that gap-year students are more mature and focused and an asset to their campus. For some students who may not be happy with their college choices, a gap year provides an opportunity to reapply with a stronger portfolio.
7. Gain a clearer sense of college studies
From Haigler and Nelson’s statistics, 60 percent of students found that their gap year helped them either determine or affirm a major or course of study. This saves time and money because students are less likely to switch majors and spend extra time in school making up credits.
8. Ease the transition from college to the work world
A gap year is a half step out into the world and offers students an opportunity to realize that they can handle it just fine. It makes the later post-college transition less daunting.
9. Embrace a gap year when one is free to do so
Parents often laughingly agree that they would love to take a gap year but kids, jobs, pets and homes make it a tough proposition. Students are free to travel and explore their interests during this jewel of time.
About the author—Holly Bull, Princeton, N.J.:
President of the Center for Interim Programs (founded in 1980 as the oldest independent gap-year counseling service in the U.S.), Holly took a gap year before and during college and has been counseling students and parents through the gap-year process for more than 20 years.
Article updated May 2, 2016