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Gap Years: Beneficial or Back Pedalling?

About 25% of high school graduates choose to take a gap year – so the question of whether gap years are beneficial or not is an important one. Essentially, a gap year simply means taking a year off of school in between high school and college, and what is done with that time is up to the individual. Many travel or try to jump into the workforce either with an internship or a paid job.

No matter what one does in a gap year, however, it still poses questions: Will you fall behind when you do go to college? Will you lose interest in school and choose to not go back? Will you use your time wisely in the year? I talked to a friend of mine, Blake Middleton,  that took a gap year and asked what he thought about his time out of school. The reason why he took a gap year in the first place was, he explained, “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study in college and because I wanted a chance to travel,” which he did. He “went to Costa Rica and volunteered in a school, a turtle conservation program in Guanacaste, and an elderly home…I also went to the Philippines for a month to visit family and travel the country as well.” He went on to explain how he got an internship at a software company while also working a restaurant job once he came back. He summed his experience up by saying, “I felt like I was ahead and more well prepared for college because of my job and world experiences.” So in Blake’s experience, a gap year was the best choice for him because he had time to figure out what he wanted to do in college and life thereafter, but that’s not necessarily how everyone would experience a gap year.

“I felt like I was ahead and more well prepared for college because of my job and world experiences.”


Traveling is expensive so there would have to be a lot of thought, effort and planning just to be able to go around and travel for an extended period of time. Not everyone has that kind of time to work or financial support from parents to take a gap year, even though they can prove to be beneficial. So, gap years aren’t as simple if the point is to travel; it is, of course, an option – but not practical for everyone.

I considered taking a gap year, but for me I know that I would love having the time off of class to work as much as possible and a decent income, one I wouldn’t want to give up for college even if that would prove to be most helpful in the long run. Or I would lose myself in traveling which isn;t necessarily a bad thing but not the path I want to take personally. I don’t know exactly how I would be but I know myself and plenty of others who would enjoy the time off of school too much and the income of working full timed/or traveling. And not only that, but I would be a year behind in school; I would feel out of place. Maybe it would be worth it if I could travel around for a year and gain knowledge through experiencing another’s culture and way of life, or have the opportunity to jump directly into the workforce; something that often can’t be taught in a classroom.
A decision to take a gap year all comes down to trade-offs, sacrifices, and what your priorities are. If you are like Blake and don’t really know what you want to do in college, or if you have the ability to save enough money for a long trip to new places to explore, or there’s a big job opportunity where you could start off in the workforce, then maybe a gap year is for you. But either way, it’s a trade-off and there are a lot of possibilities to consider when thinking about taking a gap year.

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