Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year

Gap years are becoming increasingly common in the United States but as you consider it you’re likely to get a lot of input from friends and family, and take some time weighing up your options. If you’re deciding whether a gap year is the right choice for you, here are some gap year pros and “cons” to consider:



Gap Years are a great opportunity to learn more about yourself and the world. Consider some of these benefits to determine if it could be the right choice for you.


1. Be better prepared for college

Taking and completing a gap year will give you a better sense of self. It will make you more independent and more mature. For many of Global Citizen Year Alums, their gap year helped them figure out what they wanted to study and re-energized them to return to the classroom and pursue their dreams. Many colleges report that students who take gap years are more involved on campus and have higher GPAs.


2. Gain a better sense of self and the world

No matter what you do for your gap year, you will get to know yourself a little better. Taking a break from classroom learning will help you learn more about yourself and what makes you happy. You will also gain a new and different understanding of the world, as you stretch, grow and see new things. The challenges facing the world are global in nature – poverty, diseases, immigration – and we need leaders who are ready to engage with the world to solve them.

On your gap year – no matter what you choose to do – you get to make the world your classroom. And understanding the world will make you a better citizen and community member at home, at college and in life.


3. Colleges and universities like it

More and more colleges are encouraging – and in some cases requiring – taking a gap year. A growing list of colleges, from Tufts University to Harvard University to University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, are providing incentives such as preferred admission, financial aid, and course credit to increase the number of students who do it.


4. Boost your resume

Taking a gap year is a great way to stand out from other applicants. Imagine being able to put on your resume that you’re fluent in another language and spent a year living in another country. By taking a gap year, you will set yourself apart from the pack and show confidence and motivation. It will also give you something to talk about at interviews! You will get to speak about why you chose to do it, why it was the right decision and everything you learned from it.

Additionally, there is a growing sentiment in the business community that a college degree is evidence that someone did their seat time but actually says very little about how competent and capable they are. Your gap year will say more about these skills than where you went to college and what you studied.


5. Expand your network

No matter what you do for your gap year, you will meet new people and expand your network. Whether you take a job in your home neighborhood or travel to a new country, you will make new friends! As a Global Citizen Year alum, for example, you will join a growing network of inspiring and driven young leaders. Our alumni are enrolled at over 200 different colleges around the world, excelling as leaders on campus and in the classroom, and earning recognition as Gates Millennium Scholars, Fulbright scholars, Dalai Lama Fellows, and Davis Peace Fellows.


It likely won’t surprise you (given that we run a gap year program) that we think the pros strongly outweigh the cons. But, we know a gap year might not be the right choice for everybody. Here are some concerns that we get asked about a lot and how we answer them!


1. Fear you’ll “be behind”

For many people considering a gap year, the biggest concern is that they’ll feel behind from their peers. But if you read the all the pros we mentioned above, we believe you’ll be the one coming out ahead!

Just listen to Global Citizen Year alum, Winson Law, who says, “whether it’s my Fellowship program at Middlebury, my internship this summer, the opportunity to travel to Cameroon next year…. at some level, I know that my Global Citizen Year has opened these doors making all of this possible.”


2. Worried you’ll lose momentum

Many students and their families worry that one year off could turn into many more and that students won’t return to college. However, this runs counter to all of the evidence we’ve seen from our 800+ alumni who consistently cite that their Global Citizen Year increased their self-confidence, expanded their definition of success, and sparked their motivation for college:

  • 90% of Alumni who reapplied to college during their Global Citizen Year got into more selective schools and/or schools that were a better fit
  • 95% of Alumni say that Global Citizen Year was the best preparation they could have had for college
  • 94% of Alumni are currently enrolled in or have graduated from college

Applying to college after a gap year might give you better options, a better chance for success, and a better overall experience.


3. Cost

Depending on how you spend your gap year, the cost of it will vary. It’s true that short-term travel programs often carry a high price tag. This is an area where Global Citizen Year is different. We are committed to ensuring that gap years are not just for rich kids. To date, 80% of Fellows have received some level of need-based financial aid, and 30% have received a fully-funded scholarship.

As you think about these gap year pros and cons know that by considering a gap year you are daring to step off the beaten track. You are taking the first step towards steering your ship in the direction you choose. Global Citizen Year is waiting for you!


More Gap Year Resources