What is a gap year?

Historically, a gap year is taken after high school or prior to a college graduate starting his or her career or post-graduate education. Many use this time to explore potential professional paths, deepen their personal awareness, or simply to take a break from the rigors of constant studying before starting the next phase in their life.


What Are the Benefits of a Gap Year?

Recent studies have shown significant success for students who take a gap year in two key areas: academic performance, and job satisfaction. Over 90% of gap year students end up back in college and of those, they tend to have above average grades as well as lower transfer rates compared to students who go right to college. They also graduate faster on average. Once graduated, they demonstrate greater job satisfaction than the average student. More subjectively, gap years provide students an opportunity to develop personally, making them generally more prepared to deal with the academic and social situations which arise in a college environment. 1


Gap Years and Covid-19

With so much uncertainty as to how colleges will operate this fall, many students and parents are hesitant to spend a significant amount of money to end up with an entirely virtual class load and miss out on “the college experience”. While virtual learning can be effective, many families are considering a gap year as a way to save money while making the most of this unique time. Here are some things to consider about taking a gap year.

  1. Have a Plan

This year especially, it is critical that students consider a long-term goal when considering a gap year. Make a list of goals you want to achieve, or skills you want to learn. Then, think about how you may be able to accomplish all that within your local community, or potentially close to home. There are 4 main categories gap year activities fall under: career exploration, service/volunteering, paid work, exploration. Make a detailed list of activities you can do in these categories to reach your goals. Check out the Gap Year Association’s planning guide to get started.

  1. Consider an Independent Approach

Many students use programs such as AmeriCorps or City Year to help in the planning of their gap year. Due to Covid-19, many of these programs have had to move to digital offerings and will have reduced capacities for their programs, so you may have to create your own program. Consider working with a gap year counselor to make the most of your decision. You can find a list of accredited programs and counselors at www.gapyearassociation.org.

  1. The Opportunity is Greater Than Ever

Ultimately, taking a gap year is about changing your perspective through new experiences. In this time of great uncertainty, a gap year is sure to speed up personal growth. It can also give you more time to adjust to “the new normal”. Your college of choice may be different depending on their plans for reopening, and your financial needs may change over the coming months. Whatever the reason, a gap year may be the perfect option to help you come out the other side of this in a better position.


Be sure to join us on May 26th at 3-4 pm EST for a webinar from Gap Year Association. Executive Director Ethan Knight and a panel of experts will sit down to discuss gap years in the time of Covid-19, and some best practices to consider. They will also take questions from the audience to give you a chance to get your specific questions answered. Sign up here.