Gap years offer positive time to recover from academic burnout


Photo courtesy of Global Citizen Year

Gap years, a time before high school and college, are a great time to experience the world and find yourself.

By Leah Kreisler

After four grueling years of high school, many WCHS graduates go onto four more years of demanding education in college. While for some this transition is healthy and productive, a break from homework and studying would benefit many students.

Gap years, typically a year long break before college, have become more and more popular in the U.S. according to the Wall Street Journal, especially as acceptance rates to universities continue to plummet. Students use this year to travel, recover from academic burnout and discover more about themselves. There are over 1,500 gap year programs available to high school graduates through various organizations, with some people even choosing to stay home and get a job or internship. Even with so much opportunity, a study at UCLA found that only 3% of American students take a break before heading to college.

There are so many possibilities in one year. Many use their time to volunteer through mission trips and charity work, and others take internships in order to gain experience in their chosen field before committing years of time and money in classes. Some simply use the year to do odd jobs and better themselves as people through working, learning life skills such as personal finance and cooking, and establishing healthy routines. Gap years are oftentimes facilitated through programs that frequently take place abroad and give students the opportunity to immerse themselves in other cultures and learn new languages. Backpacking is another common option for young adults on a gap year before they come home to once again sit at desks.

While some argue that gap years are detrimental to students who want to return to school as it will interrupt the flow of their education thereby making the transition to college harder, approximately 90% of gap-year takers return to college within a year. In fact, many studies have shown that college students who have taken gap years actually did better in school than those who have not. According to the Gap Year Association, a nonprofit organization that intends to make gap years accessible to everyone, students who take gap years tend to have higher GPAs than those who do not take a break in their studies.

Regardless of what one does during a gap year, they are bound to come away with key life skills that will carry into college and beyond. Learning new languages, honing communication methods, enhancing leadership, and building problem-solving skills, and simply learning to enjoy life are all capabilities (among many others) that can be gained through gap years. These skills will benefit the individuals tremendously as they go through more education and step into the real world post graduation.

Gap year opportunities are also a great way to expand one’s resume. Future employers may appreciate hiring someone who has had unique life experiences such as living and working abroad. Experiences gained during a gap year are a significant addition to one’s resume and will increase one’s ability to adjust to a new job. 

Gap years are slowly gaining popularity in the USA among students and universities. In fact, most American colleges allow students to defer their acceptance for a year in order to take a gap year. Prestigious institutions such as Harvard, Princeton, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) encourage their students to take a gap year before entering college and in some cases may even provide unique opportunities for the year. For example, Harvard College’s website states that they “encourage admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way.” However, regardless of whether one does a gap year through their chosen school or not, they are safe in the knowledge that a desk is waiting for them.

Life is short and it is vital to take advantage of the little time one has. After 12 years of schoolwork it is a good idea to take a break and enjoy life’s opportunities before returning to studies.