Gap Year or Gap Semester?

There are a lot of different ways in which people choose to take time out of their regular lives to learn, grow, travel, and explore the world. Two such ways that people do this are through gap years and semesters abroad. You would be forgiven for thinking that these are one and the same, but actually gap years and gap semesters can be quite different experiences. Why? Let’s get into it.

Gap Year or Gap Semester?

What is the difference between a gap year and a gap semester?

So what is the difference between a gap year and a semester abroad? Both terms describe an extended trip abroad intended to learn and build skills, but the two are actually quite different from each other in terms of length, experience, and structure. While there are some variations on both of these experiences, generally a gap year describes a year taken away from education, often right after finishing high school and before college. It is often described as a volunteer gap year, as people often choose to work and serve in the communities in which they live during that time.

On the other hand, a gap semester is usually a few months (the length of a college semester) taken to study a few college classes abroad. Often it involves staying in college accommodation and is seen as a continuation of one’s education in a different place.

Benefits of taking a gap year instead of a semester abroad

There are a lot of reasons why taking a gap year can be more beneficial than a semester abroad. Here are just a few of those potential gap year benefits.

Enhances your education

Even though a gap program typically lasts a full year, this is actually a reason why a gap year benefits — rather than detracts from — your education. This is because it usually takes place in between high school and college, and as such allows you to take a break at a natural point, rather than in the middle of your schooling (as would be the case with a gap semester). It also provides the opportunity for you to gain experience and prepare for the start of your college education.

A more immersive experience

A gap year provides the opportunity for a more immersive experience than a gap semester, and not just because of the longer duration. This is because gap semester programs are often designed as more of a semester of regular college, but in a different location. Conversely, gap year programs are usually focused on living and working in another country, giving you a more complete experience.

More time to do things

Having said that, the longer duration is certainly one of the biggest gap year benefits as well. With a longer overall time spent in your destination, you naturally have more that you can do and experience there. So not only are you more immersed in the culture, you also have more time to experience the sights and sounds of your destination.

Greater opportunity for building skills

Another of the many benefits of a gap year is that you can gain more real world skills than you would in a college course abroad. Regardless of what kinds of gap year ideas or gap year jobs you pursue, you will undoubtedly have the opportunity to build new skills that may include learning a foreign language, leadership skills, or any number of other marketable skills.

Boost on your resume

As such, a gap year also has the potential to look better on a resume to future employers. It might even be fair to view it as a gap year internship, as the duration and level of experience gained is quite comparable. The skills that a gap year displays include leadership skills like courage, teamwork, service, open-mindedness, as well as the potential to become proficient in another language — all of which may be skills that employers actively look for when hiring.

Better value for money

Of course, this last gap year benefit depends on your particular college and the gap year program that you choose, but there is certainly the chance that a gap year will offer you better value for money than a gap semester. This is because you can shop around for the best deal on a gap year, whereas your gap semester will likely be limited to programs offered by your school.

While a gap semester can be a valuable and fun experience, the various benefits of taking a full gap year between high school and college are clear for all to see. Should you decide to do so, it is likely to be a decision that you will be grateful you made — both as you experience it, and in the years that follow as you reap the rewards.

Gap Year Resources