Gap years are becoming increasingly popular in the United States and around the world, but as you investigate the logistics of taking a gap year, you’re likely to get a lot of input from friends and family who may not fully understand the benefits of taking a gap year. Here we have compiled a list of gap year pros and cons for you to consider while you decide whether or not taking a gap year is the right choice for you.
Gap Year Pros and Cons
Gap Years are a great opportunity to learn more about yourself and the world, but they are not always the right choice for everyone. Consider some of these gap year benefits and potential risks to determine if taking a gap year could be right for you.
Pro: You will be better prepared to make the most of college
Taking and completing a gap year can give you a better sense of self. It can make you more independent and more mature. For many Global Citizen Year alumni, 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.
Con: You may 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 we believe you’ll be the one coming out ahead!
Global Citizen Year alum, Winson Law 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.”
Pro: You can gain a better sense of self and the world
No matter what you do for your gap year, it can provide an opportunity to get to know yourself a little better. Gaining real world experience outside of the classroom can help you learn more about yourself and what issues you care about.. 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, in college, and in life.
Con: You may worry that 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 900+ alumni who consistently cite that their Global Citizen Year increased their self-confidence, expanded their definition of success, and sparked their motivation for college:
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.
Pro: Gap years are good for college and university admissions
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.
Con: Gap years can be costly
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. e At Global Citizen Year, we are committed to ensuring that gap years are accessible to students from all backgrounds. To date, 80% of students have received some level of need-based financial aid, and 30% have received a fully-funded scholarship.
Pro: A gap year will 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 spent a year living in another country and contributing to an impactful project. 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.
Con: You may worry about getting homesick
If your gap year involves traveling overseas or across state lines, you may be afraid that you will miss the comforts of home and suffer from homesickness. Being away from your friends and family for an extended period of time may feel daunting, but can also be a very formative experience. When you’re away from home and your environment changes, you have the opportunity to gain a new perspective and learn how to navigate the world on your own. If you go on your gap year and find that you feel homesick, an experience like Global Citizen Year will support your mental health and well-being by having responsive and caring staff and a cohort of peers to ensure you don’t feel alone..
Pro: You can 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 student, for example, you will join a lifelong network of inspiring and driven young leaders from more than 100 countries around the globe. 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.
Con: Your gap year may feel stressful
Moving from a familiar environment to a foreign one can be very overwhelming. It is perfectly normal to feel minor amounts of stress as you become accustomed to your new environment. Stress is a natural response to unfamiliar situations and does not always have to be negative. In fact, getting out of your comfort zone and into your ‘stretch zone’ is one one of the best ways to learn and grow. If you end up feeling stressed during your gap year, there is no shame in reaching out for support; the leaders in your program are there to support you and will be able to help you find healthy coping strategies that will help you throughout your gap year and the rest of your life.
Pro: Taking a gap year can help you avoid burnout
Sitting in a classroom all day can be incredibly exhausting! Taking a gap year – whether after high school or during a semester of college – can give you the break you need to avoid burnout and re-invigorate you for your exciting new phase of life.
Con: Taking a gap year can be a risk
While this is not likely, it may be possible that you take your gap year and find that you do not feel like you gained anything of substance from the experience. This is incredibly rare and can be avoided by thoroughly investigating different gap year ideas and selecting an experience that fits your goals. If you approach your gap year with intention, and don’t view it as just a break or vacation, then you will be set up for success to learn and grow. A gap year can be a once in a lifetime opportunity to deeply explore your purpose and expand what you thought was possible for your future and for the world.
As you think about the pros and cons of a gap year, know that by considering a gap year you are daring to step off the beaten path. You are taking the first step towards steering your ship in the direction you choose. Global Citizen Year is waiting for you!
EXPERIENCE A DAY IN THE LIFE OF
A GLOBAL CITIZEN YEAR FELLOW
Fellow / Ecuador
— Anna del Savio
I work with a group of indigenous artisans that make fair trade jewelry.…
Fellow / Brazil
— Amari Leigh
After my community garden apprenticeship, I like to hang out at the local waterfall with my friends.…
Fellow / Brazil
— Basil Wiering
I often hail a rickshaw into various parts of the city to meet friends and practice street photography.…
Fellow / Brazil
— Fernanda Tornell
I've developed my public speaking skills and encouraged hundreds of people to take care of our planet.…
Fellow / India
— Luciana Ribeiro da Silva
I apprentice with Teach For India and also volunteer with a non-profit working to end child marriage.…
Fellow / Ecuador
— Noah Hapke
I co-teach English classes at the school in my community.…
Fellow / Brazil
— Sarah Murray
My apprenticeship is at a school for people with disabilities where I help to lead gardening, games, and capoeira.…
Fellow / India
— Alana Poole
In the afternoons, I often go on home visits to meet my students' families and understand where they come from.…