Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year Before College

Bashar Hanna
4 min readJan 29, 2024

Taking a year off after graduating from high school before attending college, commonly referred to as a gap year, is a decision that a number of young adults make. Pursuing a higher education demands a level of commitment that not all individuals are ready for at this age.

Additionally, there can be a particular attraction to spending some time doing other things. Even if traveling to see more of the world doesn’t excite you, there are many interesting ways to spend the 12 months after earning a secondary school diploma. That said, let’s explore some pros and five cons of a gap year.

Pros:

  1. Develops new skills

A year away from the classroom is a chance to learn differently. It offers a way to enhance your current competencies and acquire additional skills in a range of interesting environments. Whether you’re driven to begin a passion project, want to travel overseas or plan to stay in your hometown, you can craft an experience that helps you hone your skillset.

2. Broadens your perspective

While college comes with perspective-broadening opportunities, there’s no doubt that spending a year elsewhere can have added benefits in this regard. Depending on what you do during the year, you’ll probably be meeting many new people. As you hear about their background and experiences, perhaps through working or volunteering on a project, your worldview is likely to become larger.

3. Improves your confidence

After 12 months, you’ll return to your studies with a newfound appreciation of your abilities. This confidence boost will serve you well as you embark on your university education. It will spark your curiosity and lead you to investigate what else you may be capable of. You’ll be ready to test your limits and make the most of your time in college.

4. Chance to earn money for college

Post-secondary education is typically very expensive, and there’s no arguing that having a little extra time to earn money for school can be a good thing. If your gap year plan is to get a job and put away as much of your earnings as you can for your education, taking a year off might be an obvious choice.

5. Fosters maturity and independence

It’s understandable if you’re in a hurry to get your university degree and into the business of making a living for yourself as quickly as possible. However, spending a year working, backpacking in a few other countries, or volunteering abroad with an international humanitarian organization can be invaluable. You’ll be called upon to act independently in such situations and will be apt to mature much faster, an advantage when you attend college.

Cons:

  1. Can be expensive

Unless your goal is to stay at home with your parents and take a job, a gap year can be expensive. Traveling to another continent or even across the United States takes funds that you could otherwise save for a post-secondary education. In addition, you may need some money to support yourself if you want to volunteer or have an idea for a passion project.

2. May be safety risks

Generally, safety risks come into play only if you’ll be spending your gap year far from home. It’s important to become as familiar as you can with the laws and customs in other countries before venturing there. Remember to have a safety plan if you’re traveling alone and not to make assumptions that can land you in trouble.

3. Might use your time unwisely

Staying out of school for a year might also be a waste of time. You may be tempted to have a bit more fun than you should and delay doing what you had in mind when you looked forward to a gap year. Some advance planning and self-discipline will assist you to make the most of your efforts.

4. Get behind in your studies

When you enter a university after being off for 12 months, your high school friends will usually be that much ahead of you and a year closer to getting their degree and entering the workforce. Although this might be a little discouraging, it’s best not to compare yourself with others. The more pressing issue is that you’ll need to refresh your knowledge in preparation to resume your education.

5. Might lose interest in college

Despite your best intentions, a gap year might cause your interest in attending college to wane. Maybe you like the gratification you receive from being employed, or there are so many more places in the world you want to visit. No matter what the attraction is, there is a real risk that taking a year off can stall your momentum.

Finally

There are a number of reasons why taking a gap year can be beneficial and, also, some disadvantages. Some people may see it as a route to enhancing their skills while others prefer not to delay starting college. Whatever the case, carefully considering the pros and cons is time well spent.

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Bashar Hanna

Dr. Bashar Hanna has spent nearly four years as the president and chief executive officer of Pennsylvania’s Bloomsburg University.