Pros & Cons of Organized Gap Year Programs Abroad 

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Organized gap year programs have long since been a favorite pastime of kids the world over, but it’s finally becoming more widely accepted that high school students are taking a year off before college. Regardless of what you're into or what you enjoy, people just love going abroad, experiencing new cultures, and seeing as much of the world as it is possible to see!

Backpacker in the mountains in Slovakia
Rather than jump right into your studies, you’re interested in taking a gap year before college.

Taking a gap year before college is not always plain-sailing; however, there are some elements of the experience that can spoil it for people and there are some that redeem them! Luckily for you, we’ve compiled a comprehensive breakdown of pros and cons of organized gap year programs abroad, and we've even created a handy section on how to pick the best gap year programs for you too.

How to Pick Gap Year Programs

What are you into? What do you enjoy and what are your hobbies? It’s probably best to choose a high school gap year program close to what you enjoy as you’ll have more fun this way. Love animals? There are conservation gap year programs! Want to make the world a more peaceful place? Check out programs in peace and conflict studies. You’ll want to choose a focus that you like, something that is close to what you're studying, and something that won’t bore you easily. This will ensure that you'll have the most fun when you're taking a year off before college and that is the key to enjoying your experience abroad.

Take a look into the work that is offered by your program provider and see which program is best for you. As soon as you get going, start thinking about what you need for your work. Will you need specific equipment or footwear or a uniform? Take these into account and also look into the earning potential (Assuming it isn’t voluntary or unpaid work) and factor this into your decision. Now, onto pros and cons!

The Cons of Doing Organized Gap Year Programs

Farming volunteers in New Zealand
You will gain valuable work and volunteer experience abroad.

Isn’t the point of taking a gap year before college to spend a little time outside the rigidity and structure of a classroom? Even if your program doesn’t include a study component, you might find the structure of an organized gap year program a little stifling. This might not be the best option for any student looking to go their own way and blaze their own trails.

They can restrict your movement.

You can’t move around as much as you would like and this can be restricting, as it means you literally can’t go anywhere else whilst abroad. If you're working somewhere or taking part in an activity in one place, then you will be required to stay there. This can be annoying because the whole point of a gap year is that you're able to not only explore the world, but also find a few things out about yourself. Staying in one place working or doing one activity means that your travel bucket list will have to wait, so be aware of this before you even apply for a program.

You won’t meet many new people.

You’re going to meet new people abroad, that is a given. However, there will be a distinct lack of a consistent new stream of people for you to meet. If you're doing an organized gap year program, like a work placement, then you will be working with the same people virtually every day. You’ll need to decide if this is what you want to do, or if you’d rather spend your year hopping from country and city, making new friends along the way.

If you're volunteering through gap year programs like Carpe Diem Education, for example, then you will meet new people in your group who will soon become like your family, but you'll be working a lot and won’t necessarily have time to get to branch out on your own.

Volunteer walking with children in Fiji
You’ll be exposed to new cultures and ways of living.

There’s less freedom.

In the very early stages of your organized gap year program, the idea of having added support from the people you're traveling with can seem not only enjoyable, but also essential, especially if you want to really learn and grow. As you become more comfortable with life abroad, the handholding or micro-managing of your might start to get a little annoying.

You’ll start craving more independence, and this is essential to achieving what you want to by taking a gap year before college; essentially this means that you’ll start getting the irrepressible urge to “spread your wings,” and you yourself will have to come to the conclusion of whether or not that is a good idea.

The Pros of Participating in Organized Gap Years Before College

For recent high school graduates interested in taking a year off before college, organized gap year programs are the perfect compromise between nagging parents and those restless feet of yours. The structure and supervision gives parents a little relief knowing you’re taken care of, but you still ultimately get the best of traveling abroad for a year with every added advantage, such as:

It looks great on your CV/resume.

Taking a gap year can often raise questions in university interviews or in job interviews. What did you do on your gap year? Working or volunteering on your gap year is exactly the thing to have on your CV/resume and something that hiring managers absolutely love to see. It shows you have work experience and it shows that you've taken some time to actually try and learn some new skills, too.

Group of people standing on a hill in New Zealand
You’ll gain a whole new traveling family and view of the world during gap year programs abroad.

It's very important that you make note of your gap year achievements on your CV/resume, humble brag if you have to; people will not only be very impressed by your participation in gap year programs abroad, they will also count for a lot more in due course. If you learned a language, highlight this accomplishment alongside your work and volunteer accolades.

You might find something that you enjoy.

There is a great opportunity for you here to find something that you love. You may find a job that you want to stick with or you'll find a an idea of what you want to study in college. In fact, many people who end up taking a gap year before college have said that that experience is what made them want to study human and family studies (for example) or to look into similar activities at university.

You’ll gain unique experience.

The experience of traveling and working abroad is invaluable. It shows that you have experience in the working world, which can help with your CV/resume, but more importantly than that, it helps you be a more well-rounded person. It will help you to learn more about yourself, illuminate what you're going to do with your life, inform you more about how the world works, and it will help you to understand the working world too.

Use these unique experiences to your advantage; learn more about the world and the way that people work, and (if you're working abroad) learn more and more about the way different cultures work too.
Group of friends having a picnic in the mountains at sunset
If you’re interested in venturing out on your own, an organized gap year program might not be for you – since most activities are done as a group.

So there you have it!

The pros and cons of organized gap year programs abroad. There are plenty of things (and programs) to consider and a near endless amount of research to do, but hopefully this little list will help get you on the right track and allow you to make an informed decision, so when the day arrives for you to embark on your gap year abroad, you know exactly what you’re in for.

Discover the best gap year programs with MyGoAbroad.