Gap Year

Should You Take a Gap Year After High School? Pros & Cons

Should students take a gap year after high school? Let's break down the pros and cons.

Why You Should Take a Gap Year After High School

While a gap year is customizable and can be an interlude to your academia or serve as a mid-career break, a popular option among gappers is to take a gap year right after graduating high school.

Are you a student wondering if you should take a gap year after high school? You're in the right place! We’ll help break down the pros and cons of students taking a gap year after high school to help you decide if it’s the best path for you.

What is a gap year?

A gap year is a dedicated break from either your studies or career. During this dedicated break, you’re not just sitting on the sofa at home completing Netflix marathons, you’re fostering aspects of personal and professional growth through initiating your independence, cross-cultural adaptability, social skills, and much more.

Pro: It can better prepare you for college, your career, and the adult world

Traveler looking towards sunset over horizon

Although studying requires you to put in the effort for countless essays and projects, solo traveling - without the safety net of your parents - is a sure way to become more self-aware and self-reliant.

Stepping out of your comfort zone and navigating unfamiliar territory will allow you to improve problem solving and critical thinking skills, which will transfer over into your education and work, among other aspects of daily life.

The skills gained during your time abroad will help you throughout adulthood and encourage self-reliance when it comes to living on your own for the first time, navigating new cities, introducing yourself to new people, and much more.

Taking a gap year and traveling the world says a lot about a person. An employer may associate your international experience with desirable traits such as independence, cross-cultural adaptability, social skills, and ambition required for a particular field.

Read more: Gap Year Benefits for Students

Con: Without proper planning and research, it may feel like wasted time

There’s a lot of research and planning required for crafting an impactful gap year, and this can feel overwhelming at first. While it may be fun and “kooky” to spontaneously go overseas, it’s important to identify your purpose and goals for taking a gap year. Otherwise, it may feel like wasted time.

Traveling with a gap year program can remove the stress of planning and provide you with the structure needed to keep you on track. These programs can provide you with all the benefits of a gap year such as personal development and seeing the world - without the hassle of planning.

A typical gap year program will include perks such as expert leaders, accommodation, transportation, group activities and workshops, cultural excursions, and exposure to like minded travelers. Gap year counselors can also help you design the perfect gap year to fit your goals and match you with your ideal program!

Pro: It can introduce you to a wealth of new people and opportunities

Travelers diving underwater with Santa hats

One of the benefits of traveling is that it ensures that you don’t fall into a “small town mentality,” when your world and comfort zone shrinks because you’ve stuck to the same monotonous, uninspiring routine for an extended period of time.

Traveling can introduce you to an entirely new network of people, intriguing cultures, and a vast range of opportunities. You’ll meet people from all walks of life with varying experiences, and some which may even be inspirational to you.

A gap year can also provide you with highly desirable skills on your resume. The ability to communicate effectively in another language also allows you to sidestep and advance in many other careers which require bilingual workers. Acquiring a new language allows you to apply existing skills in an entirely new market for international companies which requires global communication.

Read more: Why You Should Learn a Language on Your Gap Year

Con: Taking a gap year abroad can get expensive

Depending on the length of your gap year program and where you visit, it can be costly. You’ll have to plan ahead by factoring in flights, accommodations, food, travel insurance, visas, vaccinations, and more.

However, nothing good in life comes free, especially the perfect gap year. Rather than giving up on your gap year because of costs, take time to create a budget and set up a plan for managing your expenses. This will help you make the most of your experience and sustain your travels, as a gap year on a budget is more than possible!

A popular way to travel on a budget is by applying for unique jobs abroad. Here, you’ll be able to put your skills to good use in exchange for either a salary or free accommodation. Not only can this help sustain your travels, but it can make your gap year more immersive.

Popular examples of jobs you can do during your gap year include teaching English abroad, hospitality work such as working on a cruise ship or front desk at a hostel, WWOOFing, and much more!

You should also consider making use of the many gap year scholarship opportunities that we have on Go Overseas! It’s free to enter, and it can help make your gap year more of a reality!

The USA Gap Year Fairs partners with schools across the US to connect students with gap year providers and experts, showcase the different programs, and provide resources to help students plan their ultimate gap year experience. Every year, they reward a $5,000 scholarship to a student to help fund their gap year!

Read more: 15 Pro Tips for Doing Your Gap Year on a Budget

Pro: It can motivate you to pursue higher education

Many people may be dissuaded by the idea of going straight to university because they don’t know what career to pursue, and the strong emphasis on immediately going to college can come across as coercive.

There’s no golden rule that you have to decide what you want to study or pursue by a certain age but people tend to because it’s the “safe” option. But, taking a gap year is unique and positively unconventional!

Although approaching adulthood, you’re still incredibly young. The average person ventures through multiple career paths during their lifetime, not just one. So, buying yourself more time to figure out what you’d like to pursue is a smart investment in your future!

Rather than feeling pressured to enter college urgently, take the time to refresh your mind. Traveling the world can provide students with the academic break and breathing room you need to better understand more about what you want to get out of your education.

Students that take a gap year after high school will be introduced to beautiful landscapes and thriving cities, and may even feel inspired to study a new language at college after visiting so many new places.

Read more: The 10 Best Gap Year Destinations

Con: You may feel isolated from friends who went straight to college

You may worry about experiencing “fomo” seeing your home friends gain new friends, join clubs, and thrive at college. However, just because they’re thriving, it doesn’t mean that you can’t.

It’s important to keep in mind that you’ll also make new friends and have unique experiences during your gap year – your friends may even feel envious after hearing about all of the exciting adventures and new things you tried during your gap year! Every new place is an opportunity to meet interesting people, do fascinating things, and become a better version of yourself.

Pro: You’ll enter university or your new job with greater self-confidence

A traveler posing in front of colorful mountains in Peru

Once you’ve already traversed the globe, overcome language barriers, and navigated places once uncharted in your head, completing assignments at college or tasks in the workplace will become much easier. This is because the independence skills gained will make you a more proactive and self-reliant person.

Of course, you’ll still need to keep your head down and work. But, since your gap year will make you more independent and self-reliant, you’ll become much more focused both inside and outside the academic or work environment.

Cons: Without structure or direction, you may lose momentum

It can be difficult returning to school or maintaining academic momentum if your gap year lacks purpose or direction. A gap year without direction looks like one where you stayed home all day playing video games, watching Netflix reruns, or anything that doesn’t lead to some form of self-improvement.

While flexibility and spontaneity in a gap year can be beneficial, it’s also important to have some sort of goal or objective. This doesn’t need to be education or career related, as many young gappers scope out for personal growth during their gap year. Your objective could be to come home with improved self-confidence, independence skills, having formed new connections, and more.

However, gappers who use their time wisely to explore their passions, gain life skills, and push themselves out of their comfort zone were found to enter university more prepared to learn.

Pro. You’ll become an empathetic, worldly traveler

An independent traveler atop a mountain

A gap year will expose you to important truths and a more spiritual way of living like how to travel and form personal connections. You’ll also learn that experience profoundly outweighs materialistic things. It can also make you a more empathetic person as well as developing other forms of social and emotional intelligence.

It’ll teach you that buying that Gucci belt is irrelevant when compared to living with a family and learning their native language at a homestay abroad. Your gap year travels will widen your perspective tenfold, exposing you to characteristics and experiences unique only to specific foreign cultures.

Additionally, you’ll become more culturally aware and sensitive, grateful for what your home culture offers but also understand what you can learn from other cultures. A gap year spent volunteering with those in-need or teaching abroad may leave you wondering how you take the ability to seamlessly transition into higher education for granted back home.


Is a gap year after high school right for you?

The benefits of a gap year after high school will translate well to your education, career, and life in general! Just keep in mind, taking a gap year is always an option, and whether or not the timing of a gap year is right for you depends on your goals and lifestyle.

Start planning your ultimate gap year: