You’ve worked hard to achieve your diploma or degree and are looking toward your next step. Before you do, you may consider a gap year or taking a year off. It’s a common concept in Europe and given the state of our country due to COVID-19, many people are considering it this year too.
What is a Gap Year?
As the name suggests, a gap year is a break between schooling, but it can also be a break between graduating and entering the workforce.
Essentially, a gap year is a year to travel, do volunteer work, or otherwise better yourself and further your studies. Most people take it in between major changes, such as after high school and before college or after undergraduate school and before graduate school.
What Qualifies as a Formal Gap Year vs a Stopout?
A gap year is a break between schooling – like we said above, between a transition period. A stopout is a break in the middle of an academic year. A stopout isn’t official and can create two issues:
- You may need to reapply to your college after taking time off
- You may accelerate your loan program’s grace period, making your loan payments due sooner than you expected
If you take a gap year or a stopout, talk to your loan provider and/or scholarship provider. You run the risk of losing scholarships or grants from large organizations, but smaller organizations that recognize the importance of a gap year, may allow it with certain restrictions. Most organizations have zero exceptions or stopouts though.
Reasons to Consider a Gap Year
Given today’s environment amid the pandemic, more high school and college students are thinking about a gap year. With the uncertainty of the year ahead of us and many colleges turning to online learning, many students are opting to take the year off and do other things that will help them mature, get real-life experience, and further their opportunities when they enter the workforce.
Other common reasons to consider it include:
- Recover from burnout – Feeling exhausted, depleted, and unsure after high school is common as the pressures increase the older you get. Add the pandemic in, and most seniors find themselves ready for a break. A gap year helps you recharge while exploring your interests in a hands-on fashion.
- Build more skills – If you didn’t take high school seriously or you didn’t mature enough quite yet, the gap year gives you more time to prove yourself and improve your resume, increasing your chance of getting into the college you want.
- Get away from peer pressure – Just because the ‘normal route’ is to go straight to college from high school, not everyone benefits. If you need time to build independence and make your own decisions, a gap year can be a great choice.
If COVID-19 has you worried about your opportunities and/or what you’ll miss with college looking different this year or you’re just burned out, talk to your advisors about a gap year. When you make it official and join a qualified gap year program, you may even gain college credit or improve your chances of getting into the college you desire with your newfound experience.
Teaser: A gap year can make you more mature, increase your skills, and provide invaluable experiences. Find out how it works and who qualifies.