In recent years, more and more students have begun to take gap years before college. The college admissions process is more competitive than ever, especially at top-ranked universities. Many students hope to bolster their resumes by taking a gap year to stand out at elite schools.
High grades and scores often aren’t enough in today's college admissions landscape. Schools like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton—all of which have single-digit acceptance rates—look for students with unique extracurricular activities, backgrounds, and accomplishments. This means that a gap year has plenty of benefits—the chance to pursue a project or program that excites you and helps your resume shine.
If you’re asking yourself, “why is it good to take a gap year,” we’re here to help you decide whether a gap year is the right choice for you. Then, we’ll dig into more details about the advantages of taking a gap year before university and some reasons to take a gap year.
What is a gap year?
Simply put, a gap year is a year between your senior year of high school and your freshman year of college. Some students are accepted to college and defer their enrollment for a year to pursue a gap year. Other students reapply to college during their gap years.
Overall, there are many benefits of a gap year and advantages of taking a gap year before university. Keep in mind that gap years can look vastly different for different students. Some possibilities include the following:
- Traveling abroad
- Pursuing an internship
- Doing community service
- Working to save money for college
- Applying to colleges
One of the biggest benefits of a gap year is its flexibility. By taking a gap year, you can do almost anything you want. This can help you learn more about yourself and your interests. It can also help you in the college admissions process, which we’ll expand on later.
Why is it good to take a gap year?
With acceptance rates at top colleges declining nationwide, many talented students have been disappointed with their admissions results. One of the advantages of taking a gap year before university is that it gives students a chance to boost their profiles with interesting activities and experiences.
If you take a gap year, you can either pursue your interests independently or join one of many organised gap year programs. Keep in mind that some of these programs require separate applications. So, while structured gap year programs can look impressive on a college resume, you should plan ahead if you aim to apply.
A gap year can also help you build your independence and confidence. For most students, a gap year is the first time they’ll live away from family. This means that by taking a gap year, you can learn crucial life skills such as:
- Living independently
- Cooking for yourself
So, if you take a gap year, you’ll likely learn a lot about yourself. This can be incredibly helpful as you head into college.
Top 9 Benefits of a Gap Year
There are plenty of benefits of a gap year regarding the college admissions process. So, if you’re wondering, “why is it good to take a gap year,” there are plenty of answers. Here are some top reasons to take a gap year.
Often, students will use a gap year as a chance to travel abroad. This is another one of the benefits of a gap year. Travelling to different countries can allow you to immerse yourself in different cultures, network, and explore career options. It’s a fulfilling opportunity and one of the best things you can do during your gap year.
Gap year gives you the chance to do more than just travel. It allows you to try different things and build a solid resume for college applications. For instance, you can also engage deeply with a culture that is not your own—which might be a great topic for a college essay. You can even try working for non-profit organisations and charities to build a stunning resume.
Learn new languages
If you live abroad for a considerable amount of time, you’ll get a language immersion experience that can supplement any high school language courses. This can enrich your college applications and prepare you for further language and cultural studies. It can also make you even more employable after you graduate from college.
Volunteer around the world
Many gap year programs sponsor or lead volunteer work across the world. This can be a great way to get the most out of your gap year and add unique experiences to your college applications. However, you can also travel abroad without the aid of a structured program—just keep in mind that this can become expensive. So, as you structure your gap year, keep in mind how the benefits of a gap year change depending on your program of choice.
Impressive college essays
So, why is it good to take a gap year? One answer: it can help you write standout college essays. Your experiences during a gap year can make for great essay topics. The best college essays will give the reader a full sense of a student’s identity. Your gap year will also give you interesting experiences that might be a great fit for certain supplemental essay prompts.When it comes to your CV, there are ways to explain a gap year on your CV, so that your justification stands out.
More time to plan ahead
If you choose to go abroad for your gap year, try to focus on projects, jobs, and experiences that will add to your profile and allow you to grow. While you can—and should—have fun, you should always keep your long-term goals in mind. That way, you’ll get the most out of the benefits of a gap year, especially when it comes to college admissions. This is especially true given how competitive today’s college admissions landscape has become.
Greater sense of self
One of the benefits of a gap year is that it can help you learn a lot about yourself.The clearer your sense of your own identity is, the stronger your identity will come through in your college essays. By taking a gap year, you can gain independence and a clear sense of self that you can use to bolster your personal statement.
Other benefits of a gap year include networking and building community with people from other backgrounds. This can mean anything—maybe you choose to volunteer abroad for the Red Cross or just meet a group of new people in a city where you’ve chosen to work.
When you take a gap year, you’ll engage with the world as an adult—rather than a high school student—for the first time. One of the key benefits of a gap year; it can go a long way toward your own development as a community member and future college student. Even if your gap year project, job, or program has nothing to do with your eventual career, the connections you make during your gap year will still help you grow.
Regardless of your career path or major, you’ll almost certainly spend time communicating and collaborating with others. By taking a gap year, you can hone these skills. You’ll also have the chance to enter a new environment beyond your high school where no one knows you. While this might feel daunting, it can help you develop a sense of independence and identity. This can allow you to go into college with a clear sense of self.
Opportunity for glowing recommendations
Additionally, your connections during your gap year might lead to the use of letters of recommendation for college. If you have a supervisor, colleague, or mentor with whom you connect during your gap year program, consider including a recommendation in your college applications.
Should I Take A Gap Year?
If you are deciding to take a gap year, consider the following questions:
- Am I satisfied with my college admissions results?
- Would it benefit me to learn a bit more about myself as an adult before starting college?
- Are there interesting gap year programs that would enrich my college experience?
- Do I need to save money before college?
- Would taking a gap year help me get the most out of my education?
- How would the benefits of a gap year help me achieve my goals?
Remember that while a gap year can allow time for freedom and flexibility, you shouldn’t consider it a break—especially if you’re using your gap year to boost your college admissions odds.
This doesn’t mean that every successful gap year needs to be highly structured. Of course, gap years can vary widely. In fact, you might find that your best use of a gap year is to move to a new city and work a job for nine months while you save money and learn how to work independently. However, you shouldn’t spend your gap year doing things that won’t help you achieve your goals.
In all likelihood, the people you meet during your gap year will have a vastly different perspective on your strengths than your high school teachers and counselors. You can add additional depth and dimension to your college applications by including their perspectives.