Benefits of a Gap Year After College or High School

An Alternative for New High School and College Graduates

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As graduation approaches, some students have not found a job or are not interested in immediately going to grad school. For them, taking a gap year when school ends might be a good option.

People are finding that a gap year affords them the time to spread their wings and find out what they really want to do with their future. In the past, it was believed that getting a job or going immediately on to graduate school were the only options. But with more choices available, taking a gap year after high school or college can be a worthwhile—and economical—experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Taking a gap year may be the right choice for you if you're still getting a feel for your long-term goals.
  • During your gap year, you should try to do things that hone your interests and skills, including working part-time or volunteering.
  • Don't panic if you feel that you don't have everything figured out when you're preparing to walk the stage.

Who Should Consider Taking a Year Away From Studies

Of course, there are students who already know what they want to do and have known for quite a long period of time. Some students are so determined and aware of their future aspirations early on while others are still sorting things out throughout their high school, college years and beyond.

About one-fifth of students took a gap year in academic year 2020-2021, according to a survey by Foundry10.

The important thing is that everyone is different and some people may make their decisions early, while others take a little longer in the decision-making process.

How Taking a Gap Year May Help

A gap year experience can truly be a time to get to know yourself better. Trying new things and meeting new people can be an enlightening and positive experience. You can also take time to reflect on the personal strengths, interests, and skills that could lead to your first full-time job.


Completing an internship, volunteer experience, or a job abroad can be an opportunity to learn more about the customs and way of life of people from other countries.

In this global marketplace, many businesses prefer applicants who have spent some time abroad. Living and working with individuals from around the world can be very helpful when working with a diverse group of people both inside and outside of an organization.

What to Do With the Time Away

For some students, a gap year means a time to unwind and relax. After spending the last four years completing challenging and rigorous courses in high school or college, a person needs some time to take a break and not worry about finding a job or adapting to the workforce.

These new graduates may decide to do some traveling, or they may just relax at home and take advantage of a free place to live. Since each individual is different, there is no right way to do it.


Whatever you decide to do, you also remain engaged and do something that will further develop your skills and help you gain new knowledge.

For those unable to get a part or full-time job, doing volunteer work is a great option. Whether you volunteer in the states or abroad, volunteering helps develop leadership, teamwork, and the ability to work successfully with a diverse group of people.

Developing or improving on these valuable transferable skills will be seen as a positive by most employers. In comparison to someone who just decides to take a year off, a new graduate who makes the most of their gap year experience will be seen as a more motivated and resourceful individual as well as a positive addition to any employer who may decide to hire them.

There's No Need to Panic About the Future

As some students approach graduation, they begin experiencing a sense of dread because they haven’t figured out what they want to do and their attempts at finding a job have not been successful.


Although it may seem to them that everyone else has a job or knows the direction they want to take after college, the truth is that many new graduates are still in the exploration stage when it comes to committing to a full-time career for the future.

Students who have not yet firmed up their after-school plans may begin to feel a sense of panic. Many of these students thought that by the time they were in their senior year of high school or college, they would have a clear idea of what they wanted to do after graduation. Their panic really sets in when they find that many of their peers know exactly what they’ll be doing after graduation, which can make the undecided student feel overwhelmed and as if there’s something wrong since they have not yet come close to making a career decision.

During these stressful times, it is important to remember that sometimes the best decision to make is to avoid making one that might negatively impact your life later. For the same reason investors wait for the right opportunity, there is absolutely nothing wrong with exercising patience until you are able to make the right move.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I get into the job search after taking a year break from college?

During your gap year, you should have gotten a better sense of what direction to go with in your career. When looking for a job after that time away, a good first step is reaching out to connections you may have in your network that could provide help in the search or a letter of recommendation.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Foundry10. "Gap Year 2020."

  2. Hostelworld. "Why Study Abroad Is The Ultimate Travel Experience."

  3. Cornell. "5 Tips for Your Gap Year Job Search."

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