Gap Years – Are They Worth It?

Olivia Mistretta, Senior Editor

Being a senior in high school means that there are many options available to explore in terms of one’s future. Going to college, entering the job world, joining the armed forces, or any other path is potentially promising. Taking a gap year is something many seniors consider after completing high school, but is it really worth it?

When it comes to the advantages of taking a gap year, there are positive statistics. According to an article published by the Year Out Group, “90% of gap year students who originally intended to go to an university on their return, do so.” If you are planning to go to a college or university, are accepted, and are given permission to delay your admission for a year, a gap year is feasible. The reason for taking a gap year is also extremely important—what are you going to be doing for an entire year? Are you going to get a job? Work with a volunteer organization? Take on an internship? Get a certification? It is important to maintain some level of productivity if you do decide to take a year off.

But what happens if you plan to stay at home and take a year off to “relax”? This sort of reason tends to be a slippery slope. Gap years are, unfortunately, expensive. Paying for living expenses can get extremely difficult if you are taking a year to relax at home. Even if you decide to take a trip (hiking the Appalachian Trail and backpacking trips across Europe are both popular among people taking gap years), you will need to have a great deal of money saved up to support yourself.

Some sources also point to a “loss in academic momentum” in people who decide to take a gap year, “The best-case scenario for taking a yearlong break from your studies is returning to them feeling refreshed and motivated. Worst case scenario is that you lose academic momentum completely. The last thing you want is your transition back into your studies being a difficult one – so you really should consider whether taking such a long break is something that will work for you” (The Scholarship Hub UK). Another aspect to consider is that people who take gap years are behind everyone else who went to college, got a job, or joined the military right after high school, “Taking a gap year will put you a year behind your high school friends who are already in college making new connections, picking a major, and planning for a career and graduating” (Holmes, U.S. News).

So, is a gap year worth it? It all depends on your individual situation. If you have a plan for what happens before, during, and after your gap year as well as the financial stability to go through with your plan, think it could benefit you more than harm you, and understand the drawbacks, maybe a gap year is an option. Otherwise, it would be best to take that leap onto the next stepping stone of your career, whatever that may be.