Students who graduate from high school have approximately 3 months off before leaving for college and beginning the whole coursework, studying, paper, exam “thing” all over again. For many such students, it might be a wiser option to take a full year break from schooling – it’s now called a “gap” year, and it has become quite popular. So, who might be a good candidate for a gap year? Here are a number of things to think about when deciding if you might fit the “profile.”


Many high school graduates have been in school, non-stop, for approximately 13 years. And if they have been children of working parents, the likelihood that they had pre-school experiences that added to this number are pretty good. While the thought of going off to college, with the independence and new experiences, is exciting, the thought of the daily grind of coursework which will be far more challenging has no appeal. If this sounds a bit like you, then consider how a gap year might benefit you. You could get a full-time job, experience the type of work a high school grad can actually get, and then enter college a year later with a renewed enthusiasm to get that degree.

Not “Ready” for College

It is not a negative thing to admit that you are just not ready for college life yet. Actually, if you have enough introspection to realize this, good for you! Maybe you need to grow a bit more emotionally or socially before you are ready to take on the far wider and more diverse environment of college. Taking a year off and immersing yourself in some volunteer work that exposes you to different segments of society may be just what you need right now! “Broadening one’s horizons” is always a good thing.

Difficulty Making a College Major/Career Choice


Maybe you have thought of several possible field of study that would lead to a variety of different careers, but you just cannot settle in on one that you know is the right “fit” for you. Taking a year off, and getting some experience, if only on a volunteer basis, in career areas that you might be considering can solidify and narrow your options. You can then enter college with a clearer picture of where you want to go.

Struggling with Self-Awareness

Do you have a clear “picture” of who you are or not? If the answer is no, then a gap year can really foster your self-awareness and allow you, based upon how you use that year, to define who you are, your values, your belief systems, and your priorities. Maybe you join a service organization, such as FEMA Corps, and work with victims of natural disasters; maybe you travel abroad and experience cultures wholly different from yours. These experiences can really refine your self-concept.


Will You Face Dis-approval?

Your friends and family may not like the idea of your taking a gap year. Friends may think that you are wasting your time; parents may freak a bit out of fear that you won’t ever go to college, if you get used to a life without classes and studying. These things are natural, and your job is to be true to yourself. What is really best for you right now? The other fortunate thing is that, today, the concept of a gap years is becoming much more well-known and much more popular. You can point your “critics” and “nay-sayers” in the direction of any number of online sources that discuss gap years and the tremendous benefits they can offer. Through these sources, they will also discover that a gap year is actually quite traditional in many developed countries of the world, and that it is considered a wise investment in oneself.

Photo by: Ed Gregory,

Ryan McGuire