Answering the 4 Most Important Questions About Gap Years

By Aitran Doan - Stanford University - NextGenVest Global Ambassador - Brooklyn, New York

College right after senior year of high school isn’t the only way to do things.  Find out how you can learn a lot during a year off from school."A chance to take a breath and do something that doesn’t require asking, ‘How will this look on my college application?’ A chance to just do something for the pure love of doing it.”That’s how Robert Clagett, former senior admissions officer at Harvard University, has described taking a gap year.  Abroad, taking a year off before college is much more popular than it is in America. But with the benefits of this year of self-exploration being recently highlighted, many students are itching to know; what is a gap year?

What is a “gap” year and why is the name deceiving?

In the United States, we call the time—usually a year—out of the traditional classroom a gap year. Some take this year before entering college, and some while in college. While the word “gap” suggests a void, the image that the person on the gap year is falling into a hole, publications from accredited sources such as The Wall Street Journal, Harvard University, and the American Gap Association are increasingly lauding the merits of a gap year.

What are the merits of taking a gap year?

Not all gap years are beneficial. The most productive gap years are structured—intentionally filled with experiences to increase self-awareness and experience different career options. According to the American Gap Association, productive gap years provide immense academic and personal benefits. Gap year students perform stronger in college than their peers and experience greater career satisfaction while having well-developed non-cognitive skills such as motivation, optimism, grit, and conscientiousness because of a strong sense of identity.

Are gap years costly? 

Monetary expenses are a big deterrence for gap years. However, not all gap years are costly. Gap year programs such as Global Citizen Year and Rotary International provide full scholarships and financial aid for qualified applicants. City Year and AmeriCorps are yearlong service options that provide a living stipend. In addition, WWOOF-USA provides a cheap travel option through working on farms in exchange for room and board. Some great internship search engines are idealist.org and goabroad.org

Where can I find more resources on gap years?

Check out these online resources for more information on gap years:

-       American Gap Association

-       USA Gap Year Fairs

-       Andover Phillips Academy Gap Year Opportunities