Earth & Conservation

The Case For Taking a Gap Year

Many American students don't consider taking a year off between high school and college, but a gap year has been shown to have benefits.

For many American students, taking a gap year is not something they consider when making post-high school plans. For students that want to go to college -- and can actually afford the astronomical tuition costs at most U.S. universities -- the most common arrangement is to go directly to college the same year they graduate from high school. Taking time off is seen as a waste of time or irresponsible.

In reality, a gap year actually isn't about taking time off at all. There are many opportunities this year can provide a student before they continue their education.

A University of Sydney study found that taking a gap year helps students acquire real-world skills and "did not slow down their academic momentum," as Forbes reported. Another study conducted by Middlebury College found that students who take a gap year are more likely to be happy in their careers after college.

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One way that many students choose to spend their gap year is traveling the world. While this can be promote cultural knowledge, there are are actually many more opportunities a student can explore during that year. There are programs that allow students to explore a field of interest and get real world experience, potentially saving them thousands of dollars on studying something at university that turns out to be of no interest to them.

Things like internships, apprenticeships or personal projects force students to take an active role in their learning, which is a significant résumé booster. Employers also want to hire people that have hands-on experience in their field.

The gap year shouldn't be thought of as a gap in education, but rather an effective way to prepare for the rigors of college work that a student can expect once they return to academia -- and most gap year students do return. Ninety percent of students who take a gap year return to college within a year.

As Rainesford Stauffer wrote in Forbes, "In spite of its name, the gap year is one of the most authentic outlets we have to creating a well-rounded, prepared student, a substantial education and closing the gap that is currently threatening to swallow our collegiate system."

Plus, if Malia Obama is doing it, then it must be a good idea.