Is taking a gap year a good idea? It all depends on your goals and how well you match your gap year plan with those goals. If you’re considering whether to take a gap year, you should think about what you’re looking for in terms of gap year advantages.
What do you want to get out of taking a gap year? What are you looking for with regards to gap year benefits? Do you want to see the world? Advance your career? Get ready for college or graduate school? Find yourself? There is a gap year for any goal—your job is to find it!
What might be gap year advantages for someone else won’t matter to you, and your gap year advantages won’t be worthwhile to somebody else. So when you think about what you can get out of a gap year, really think about what you can get out of a gap year, and then go out and find a program that gives you exactly that… or make one yourself!
6 advantages of EVERY gap year
Although every gap year is different, there are some gap year advantages they all share! Whether you’re planning to spend the year interning at a business in your hometown, living out of your backpack as you travel across Europe, or volunteering with elephants abroad, you’ll be sure to find these gap year benefits waiting for you.
By their very nature, gap years are flexible. If you’ve always felt stifled by the school setting, or you felt that the requirements were too rigid for you to explore what you love, now’s the chance for you to break out of the mold!
One of the biggest gap year advantages is flexibility. You can make a schedule that works for you and accommodates your own interests and goals, as well as outside factors like family commitments. Your gap year can adapt as you find out what works for you and learn more about your interests.
2. Control and customization
One of the biggest gap year benefits is that it can be whatever you make it. You can find a program where everything is organized for you, or make the whole plan yourself. Want to work? You can find a paying job, an internship, a volunteer position, or a combination of those. Prefer to study? Maybe you choose to take a class abroad, study in a hands-on program, or even practice and learn a skill online at home (or from anywhere around the globe!).
Gap year programs abroad can be more or less structured and include more or less travel, but they almost always allow you to customize the experience in some way. And with so many short-term gap year programs abroad, you can mix-and-match to get the perfect year for you!
3. Time for reflection
Sometimes school is so fast-paced and competitive that there’s no time to stop and reflect on your goals so that you can better design your path toward them. This can be especially true for high-performing students who have always aimed to please, and haven’t had the time to sit back and figure out what they really want for themselves.
Every gap year has the opportunity for some time for reflection. This is one of the biggest gap year benefits, because it can give you the mental space to decide which educational or career path is best for you before you continue investing your time and energy moving forward. Do I really want to be a doctor? Should I change my major? I think I’d be good at computer programming—I want to try it! Reflection is what a gap year is all about.
4. Career-building potential
Of course school is important for advancing your career, but there are some special gap year advantages that school just doesn’t have. You can try a career in an outside-the-classroom way: with your hands! You can learn from experts, get experience, and seek out special training. You may be able to earn certifications or become proficient in skills in your career field.
No matter what you do with your gap year, it should contribute to your resume. Look for opportunities to take on new projects, from writing articles to attending conferences to volunteering at organizations you care about. If you aren’t sure what you want to do, this is your chance to try out one or two professions and sharpen your focus. If you’re totally sure, this is your chance to get more experience. The best gap year programs will help you in these goals.
A gap year is a chance to be on your own and build your independence. That can be a stepping stone to college and a chance to try things a little at a time, or it can be a much-needed chance to be totally responsible for yourself if you’re already comfortable with dorm life.
You learn new things when you are responsible for making the most of your own gap year. Taking a gap year means having the chance to grow your independence and get to know yourself outside of the school setting.
6. Sense of purpose
One of the biggest gap year benefits is that it can help grow your sense of purpose. Going to school is for you, but a gap year is your chance to invest in yourself while also contributing to something you believe in. Love animals and want to volunteer with them? Love children and want to learn to teach English? Whatever you love, this is your chance to go after it with all your heart.
...And 6 unique-to-you gap year benefits!
You can find gap year programs abroad or at home that give you exactly what you’re looking for, make your own gap year plan from scratch, or combine short-term programs for a customized experience. It’s all about what you want to do, whether it’s learning French, writing a book, or hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Beyond the gap year advantages discussed above, there are special benefits that some gap years can offer you.
1. Career experience
One of the biggest gap year benefits is career experience, and there are lots of gap year programs abroad that give you the chance to explore careers that interest you. Look for programs that are taught by experts and that have similar training standards to what you’d uphold in the US. You can also look for affiliations with universities, respected organizations in the field, or other partnerships that tell you the gap year program is holding its students, teachers, and coursework to a high standard.
- Recommended program: Hop off the double-decker bus and find gap year programs in medicine, law, and other careers via Oxford Royale Academy in the UK.
2. Preparation for graduate school
If you’re planning to continue your education in law, education, medicine, veterinary medicine, or any number of other careers, you may want to seek out a gap year program either during or after college that gives you experience to improve your graduate school application and experience. The best gap year programs can help you stand out as an applicant and give you educational and career experiences that will assist you in your future studies.
- Recommended program: Knock your veterinary school application out of the park with tons of vet hours, hands-on practice, and diverse animal experience with Veterinary Semester Abroad.
3. Work certifications
You may find that taking a gap year is a good fit for you because it helps you earn a certification that helps you to get a paying job which enables you to earn other income, travel and work abroad, or advance your career. From TEFL certifications to Wilderness First Responder training, these options can be a small part of a gap year that help you fund the rest of your gap year—and then some!
- Recommended program: Earn your TEFL certification (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and equip yourself to work abroad with TEFL Training College South Korea.
4. Language learning
Gap year programs abroad are a great opportunity to learn a new language. Whether you take formal language courses in a language you don’t yet know or improve your skills in a language you’ve studied by living in a country where it’s spoken everyday, you can build your resume, enrich your life, and expand your career options on your gap year.
- Recommended program: Immerse yourself in French via Edu-Inter and whether you’re starting from total beginner or advanced, you’ll be tipping your beret and sipping chocolat chaud in no time!
5. Travel adventures
When we think of a gap year, most of us think of stuffing our whole lives into a big backpack and going on a grand adventure, whether climbing Machu Picchu, wandering with kangaroos in the outback, or discovering the Eiffel Tower. Some of the best gap year programs include amazing abroad excursions like these, but you can also add short travel experiences to any gap year to make the most of your time off from school.
- Recommended program: Thinking Beyond Borders’ Global Gap Year takes you to six countries on three continents, with meaningful experiences along the way.
6. Credit toward your degree
Some people love the idea of a gap year, but are afraid of “getting behind” in their educational plans. Don’t worry! There are lots of gap year programs that provide college credit, so you can continue earning credit toward your degree while you’re traveling. One extra bonus of college credit is that you may be able to use federal loans toward your program tuition, and your school may even provide financial aid or funding for your experience. Win-win!
- Recommended program: CIEE has study abroad opportunities in 45 countries, so you’re sure to be able to find a credit-granting program for you!
A gap year is what you make it!
A gap year can help you get into college. It can help you get into grad school. It can help you get a job, or find yourself, or see the world. The gap year benefits are endless!
Is taking a gap year a good idea for you? Think about your goals, and then set out to find the right gap year for you. The right gap year for you will meet your goals and help you accomplish the benefits you’re looking for. Whatever you want out of a gap year, there is a gap year program out there to help you achieve it. You can start learning about some program options here. There are no best gap year programs; there are only the best gap year programs for you. So find the one you want and go for it!