Taking a gap year

Marlo Rulon, Contributor

Very few students take a gap year between the end of high school and the first year of college. A UCLA study found only about 3% of students in the United States decide to take a year off of school. Even when it has been proven that students could benefit from more time away from the classroom and not rush into college right away.


Gap years have many different opportunities for students, the most popular being to travel. Students can choose to travel for fun or to explore other careers. They can take internships abroad or closer to home. They can use the year to experience new cultures or improve language skills overseas. Students can also choose to stay more local. Taking a break might look like taking a year to get a job and take a few classes at a community college. There are many choices that students can make around a gap year, depending on what they want to get out of it. 


A break from school can help students’ mental health. After a lot of pressure to do well in high school and applying to colleges and preparing applications, it’s no surprise that many students start to get burned out. Taking a gap year gives students time to recover from the stress of junior and senior years. They can find more time for pursuing hobbies that allow them to relax and reset before starting back to school.


Gap years not only give students a well-needed break from the classroom, but they can give once in a lifetime opportunities to take time and explore what one might really want to study and do for the rest of their lives. Traveling gives opportunities to see other cultures. Spending the year working or interning allows students to see if the career path they want still interests them. After the gap year, students can have a stronger idea of what they want to major in, and a better sense of self. 


Many people believe that students who take gap years might lose motivation and decide to not go to college when their year is up. In fact, the opposite is true: 90% of students who take a gap year return the next year to go back to school. Many of those students have said their gap year has helped them decide on a major, improve as a person, and prepare to go into college. 


Gap years prepare students for both college and other challenges they will face in their lives. Studies done by the American Gap Association have found that over 90% of students felt that their gap year helped them develop overall as a person. Many students included that it gave them more confidence, improved their communication skills. Both skills are needed in college and any degree one would be trying to pursue.


Gap years have many options which can help students in different aspects of their lives. Taking some time away from school, and some of the pressure off of kids to decide what they want to study and do for the rest of their lives can be helpful for a year. This can allow students to return to the classroom with a new and better understanding of who they are and what they want out of college. Giving time to students to explore who they are in low-stress environments, and reset before college can bring better-prepared students the next school year.