The Gap Year

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Taking Time off Before College

For a variety of reasons, many graduating high school seniors choose to take time off before enrolling in college. Some leave high school with a desire to travel the world; others are unsure of their academic or financial direction and want to gain experience in the “real world” before making a big commitment. Whatever the reason, if you’re considering taking a break, understanding the pros and cons will help keep your “gap year” from stretching on indefinitely.

How Can a Gap Year Help?

For goal-oriented students, a gap year can be extremely beneficial in gaining perspective. And barring extreme circumstances, many students are able to pick up where they left off after a short break. Here are just a few of the benefits to taking time off before enrolling in a college program:

  • A gap year lets students take a step back and “recharge” after years of the daily academic grind.
  • Time off allows students time to think about their academic direction and professional goals before jumping in with both feet.
  • Work experience (as well as volunteer and goodwill projects) are great résumé-builders and can result in increased focus and maturity—qualities that all competitive colleges like to see in prospective students.
  • Working full time can help students save up for tuition and other college costs.

How Can a Gap Year Hurt?

For some students, the gap year is an unproductive experience, especially if they take it for the wrong reasons or fail to establish a clear plan. Take a look at some of the negative effects of taking a break before college:

  • For students who fail to develop important habits, it’s easy to lose focus and fall out of the academic routine.
  • Watching friends and classmates move on to college before you can be disheartening.
  • Students who wait sometimes lose access to guidance counselors, peer support, and even scholarship resources that they had fresh out of high school.
  • Holding out for better colleges usually doesn’t pay off unless your gap year activities were particularly impressive or geared toward a specific major.
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How to Plan for a Successful Gap Year

To make the most of a break from academic study, many students consult books and Web sites on college planning; talk to their high school counselors, college admission representatives, parents, and trusted teachers; pursue an internship or volunteer opportunity; and seek advice from other students. Be sure to analyze your goals and reasons for taking a gap year before committing to something that could have a major impact on your degree pursuit and subsequent career.


This article was written by Hannah Purnell

Hannah Purnell is a staff writer for Hannah writes extensively on the topic of undergraduate studies and the college search process.


  1. Jasmine Miller

    I am writting a research paper on Gap Years, but I am having some trouble finding sources that do not support gap years. If you have any sources that could help me please send them my way. thanks

  2. Jake Schmidt

    I fear I have the same problem as Jasmine. The amount of sources for the cons about gap year is very scarce. Any help will be appreciated.

  3. Hattie

    here’s an article that is against gap years:

  4. Pingback: PUNCH NEWSLETTER Jan 2012 - College Confidential

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