Should I Take a Gap Semester? Pros, Cons, and Everything You Should Know
Cap perched on your head and high school diploma clenched in your fist, you step out into the world as a high school graduate. You did it! You completed your secondary education.
So… now what?
For many students, high school is another stop along the road of continuing education. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 62% of high school graduates enroll almost immediately in college. Others take a more vocational path and head off to trade schools or jump directly into the workforce. But before you dive headlong into the first day of the rest of your life, why not take a second to catch your breath, explore your interests, and consider what you really want out of college and career? After all, college (and other opportunities) will still be waiting for you in a few months.
If you’re interested in expanding your horizons, developing important life skills, and becoming a better version of yourself before you make adulthood your full-time gig, consider taking a gap semester.
What Is a Gap Semester?
A gap semester is an opportunity to enjoy experiential learning outside of the classroom before you fully commit to your chosen educational or career-related path. As a shortened form of a gap year, a gap semester generally lasts around 3–4 months (or about the length of a college semester) and gives you a chance to pursue your interests, travel the world, provide volunteer service, learn new skills, and have space to reflect and plan your future.
For many students, the gap semester is a preferable alternative to a gap year — a much-needed respite and a chance to gain new perspectives and skills outside of the classroom, but one that is much more budget-friendly and less educationally disruptive than the more-traditional year-long gap. In other words, a gap semester costs less than a gap year while packing the same mentally-rejuvenating punch.
With high school behind you and your future stretching out in front, now is the perfect time to take a gap semester. Additionally, many college students take gap semesters between their junior and senior years, before starting post-graduate programs, or simply to rejuvenate between difficult terms.
What Are the Advantages of Taking a Gap Semester?
What are the advantages of a gap semester? In reality, school isn’t for everyone and even if it is, it is important to take a break and do some learning outside of the classroom. A gap semester provides an opportunity to reflect, re-energize and help you figure out what is next. Beyond just giving you the opportunity to unwind after 12 years of school, gap semesters have been shown to offer more enduring benefits. These may include (but are not limited to) the following:
Better College Preparation
Taking a gap semester can help you transition into adulthood, and set you up for greater academic success to come. The transition from high school to college is not an easy one, and there is no step by step guide on how to go about it. There are however some much needed life skills that will allow you to put your best foot forward when starting this new adventure. Confidence, independence, self-motivation and determination are at the root of college success. How do you acquire these skills? Take the opportunities to jump into the real world experiences a gap semester can provide.
In fact, most gap semesters have such a profound positive effect that many top colleges and leading professors wish that more incoming students had taken time off before enrolling. Or, to quote Stanford University Dean of Admissions, Rick Shaw, “Kids that come back… are wiser, they’re more mature, and have a different perspective than those who might have gone straight to college.”
Beneficial Cultural Immersion
Without new experiences to provide new perspectives, it can be easy to fall into a cultural rut. But there’s more to the world and its people than the area you call home. A gap semester spent traveling abroad and immersing yourself in other cultures can pull you out of your comfort zone, open up new ways of thinking, and help you become a more well-rounded person.
It’s widely understood that cultural immersion and developing a global perspective are key elements in improved learning, leadership, and self-awareness. And wouldn’t you know it — the best time to encounter other cultures with an open and teachable mind is when you’re young.
You may have a general idea of what you want to do with your life, but that doesn’t mean your interests or priorities aren’t going to change. Gap semesters represent opportunities to develop new skills, have unique experiences, encounter fresh perspectives, and take a step back to consider (or reconsider) your plans for the future. The self-awareness you gain during your gap semester can give you a more complete picture of who you are, what’s important to you, and what you’d like to dedicate your life toward accomplishing.
And whether this results in validation for the path you’re currently on or provides some insight into other opportunities you may not have considered, you’ll return home with a clear understanding of what steps you need to take to become who you want to be.
Resume Enhancing Experience
The best gap semesters are not just a break from education; volunteer abroad programs empower students with opportunities to not only see the world but also develop skills and experience that will propel personal growth and will be valuable for internship and grant applications, and in the job market.
From essential leadership training, to learning how to collaborate and coordinate with a diverse team, to establishing professional networks that can last your entire life, the right gap semester programs help lay a foundation for success in whatever vocation you choose to pursue.
Are there any Disadvantages to Taking a Gap Semester?
There are significantly more pros to taking a gap semester than there are cons. That said, there are a handful of potentially negative considerations to note before you get started. Namely, cost and time.
Travel can be expensive, and if you’re interested in enrolling in a volunteer program or taking other structured opportunities, costs can add up even faster. In some cases, the financial impact of taking a gap semester may even equal the cost of a semester’s worth of schooling. On the other hand, if you’re interested in using your gap to create a positive impact and need some support to make it happen, scholarship programs and financial aid can help offset the costs.
The other possible drawback associated with taking a gap semester is that it may cut into your time in college, delaying your graduation by a few months. But again, this does not necessarily need to be the case. Some students use their gap semesters to gain work experience and may even be able to earn college credits. And even if college credits aren’t a possibility, most students return from their gap a with clearer focus and improved determination, allowing them to accomplish more and perform better — which can mean earlier graduation.
Is a Gap Semester Right for You?
“Should I take a gap semester?” It’s a question every high school student should ask themselves before graduation. As you consider your options, you’ll want to start by comparing your own personal list of pros and cons. What’s motivating you to go? What’s standing in your way? Just be aware that issues such as finances and lost college time may not be as big of deterrents as you might think.
Also keep this in mind: Few students ever regret their gap semester, but many students who consider gap semesters and then end up not taking them wish that they had. Still, at the end of the day, it will be you who makes the final decision. The most important thing is to make sure you make a mindful decision as you embark into adulthood.
Global Citizen Year Can Help You Fill the Gap
A gap semester can be an exciting and transformative adventure — one that more and more students around the world are making an essential part of their life preparation experience. If you’re motivated, interested, and open to new experiences, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take a gap semester to grow and learn. See the world. Meet new people. Make a positive change. And when you’re done, return even more prepared to excel. A gap semester makes it all possible.
Ready to learn more? Contact Global Citizen Year; we will show you how to take a gap semester that will expand your horizons and help you grow as a person. Click here to request info, and become a dedicated global citizen.
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