What is a gap year?

Publication date:

Have you ever said to yourself: “That’s it, I’m done. Let me pack my bags and set off for somewhere far from here”? Do you have a feeling that your life routines are becoming too much for you to handle and the burnout effect is around the corner? Well, you are not the first person to feel that way. Many people have a strong desire to experience a new adventure, somehow spice things up. That’s when a gap year comes in handy.

At first, the popularization of gap years took place in the UK, Australia, and Europe. Now we can see gap years becoming more and more common in the US and the rest of the world. Moreover, employers are starting to see the advantages of taking a gap year.

In case you thought about taking a gap year or were curious about it, you probably have many questions about it, as this decision is quite important and maybe not suitable for you. We are ready to answer your questions and give you a guide on how to plan for a successful gap year.


A gap year is a planned break from your usual work or studying, aiming to reach new levels of personal development through experiential learning, often combined with traveling. It’s similar to a sabbatical, as it’s time away from work. Nonetheless, it’s not used to study or write a poem.

Taking a break has a wide range of meanings. Speaking about a gap year, the break is intentional and planned, with certain timelines and goals. It’s not just a way to skip work or school and do absolutely nothing. It’s time to let your brain recover by performing new activities. It’s an essential active form of rest.


The collocation “gap year” can be slightly confusing as there is no law or rule that states it has to be a year. Some people want to spend a couple of weeks away, some might want to take a couple of semesters off. Correspondingly, some people take even more than one year or spend it intermittently, splitting time up over a couple of years.

What are the pros and cons of a gap year?

A gap year has its pros and cons as it’s a very important life decision. Every person is different, with different thoughts, ideas, and beliefs, so take your time and think deeply about your intentions, your plans, and your specific circumstances before deciding whether to try a gap year.

Things to consider:

  • What is your budget?
  • Do you have dependents?
  • Can you postpone your admission, scholarships, and financial aid if you’re in college?
  • If you’re employed, will your company let you take considerable time off, or will you need to quit your job?
  • What are your plans and aspirations for taking time off?

Gap year advantages

Among the advantages of a gap year is the opportunity to recharge, rest, and rejuvenate yourself. No matter what your occupation is at the moment, you have been immersed in hard work for years with either no or little rest. From a very young age, we have many demands on our schedule, many things to accomplish fast, and even more worries about it. A gap year gives some time away from this never-ending cycle. During a gap year, you can eliminate pressure from your course load or boss as you have total control of your schedule. You are your boss. You can develop yourself and think about your future before settling into the next stage of life. Many people use this time to obtain new skills as well.

The perspective on the gap year from colleges and employers has changed in a good way over the last few years. Students and employees return with a different mindset and a set of developed soft skills.

Gap Year Association states that 96% of gap year alum had improvement in self-confidence, and 93% developed better communication skills. Apart from personal benefits, 84% of respondents said they obtained skills to be more successful in their careers, and 75% claimed their gap year helped them get a job. This same data dispelled the myth that students who take a gap year are future dropouts. 90% of students returned to college within a year of their gap experience and continued studying. It’s a no-brainer that a gap year well spent can boost your CV. Your connections, soft skills, hard skills, and experience that you earned during your gap year will make you stand out in job interviews and even expand access to financial aid, grants, and scholarships.

Gap year disadvantages

One of the most common reasons to hesitate is the financial aspect of taking a year off. Traveling is expensive, and so there are possible financial drawbacks. There is an opportunity cost for every decision you make, and time off may put you “behind” classmates in school or colleagues in the professional space. This means that you may take longer to graduate or catch up to your peers’ income.

Even though taking a gap year means that you will finally get your mental break and return to your former occupation fully recovered and renewed, you may lose your momentum throughout your journey. You will need to spend some time gradually getting back into the routine of studying and working. The Wall Street Journal states that About 10% of people who take a gap year during their college years choose not to come back to their studies after their time away.

It’s worth mentioning that a gap year requires well-thought planning and financial stability to afford it. Also, traveling the world is kind of lonely. Numerous aspects of a gap year that push growth are highly challenging as well. It’s crucial to take care of your mental health and well-being when making the extreme lifestyle changes that international travel entails. A little preparation never hurts anybody, right? The CDC has a prepared guide on mental health and travel. Please read and understand the possible dangers and stresses before setting off on a long-term international trip. It’s going to do wonders for your mental health.

When to take a gap year?

There are no rules about when you have to take a gap year. Nonetheless, you should consider natural breaks in education and career timelines that make the process more efficient. The most popular time to take a gap year is right after finishing college or high school.

There is no hard and fast rule about when you are allowed to take a gap year. There are, however, some natural breaks in education and career timelines that make for great opportunities. The most popular time to take a gap year is after graduating high school or college.

After high school

To be honest, not everyone is fully ready for college right after high school. You can get out on your own without the stress of college classes, explore yourself as a human being, and perhaps realize what you’re genuinely passionate about before investing a bunch of money in your first two semesters. Even though it may put you a year behind your peers, it will set you astronomically high in terms of speaking about personal experiences and global networks.

During college

Taking a gap year can help you reevaluate and recommit to your education. At this point, you have needed life experiences that make traveling alone less scary, and you will be ready to make new friends in remote places. You may realize that when you return, your priorities and beliefs have changed, which is expected and completely normal. A gap year puts a new perspective on life, and that’s an absolute must.

After college

A gap year after graduating from college is an opportunity for a well-deserved break! No doubt, the pressures to start working begin becoming too much to handle. Nonetheless, many people see this period as their last chance for a splendid adventure before investing the rest of their life in building a career.

Don’t forget that a gap year is an ultimate resume builder and gives you some unique things to discuss when you return and begin interviewing for jobs.

In adult life

Taking a gap year mid-career is still an option available for every adult, although it’s not as commonly discussed as other options. A gap year can drastically change the way you perceive a potential career change or promotion. It can also help you get used to a new phase of life. Taking a gap year as an adult is more challenging, but more rewarding as you have much more freedom. Adults have bigger budgets and better ideas on how to spend a gap year.

How to plan a gap year?

Planning is key to a successful gap year. Let’s take a look at some of the most important questions you will have to deal with when planning.

Where to go?

Traveling abroad is quite a widespread part of most gap years. If you do wish to go overseas, there are a few critical factors to consider:

  • What languages do you speak?
  • What countries can you get a visa to visit, and how long will that visa allow you to stay?
  • What are the recent health restrictions for international travel?
  • What activities do you want to take part in while abroad?
  • What is your budget, and what country can you afford to live in?
  • What is your risk tolerance?

How to pay for a gap year?

There are numerous options for funding a gap year. You can either pay the money yourself or use available grants and scholarships. Most of the scholarships from gap year program providers are need-based. It makes programs accessible to more people.

What do you do when the gap year is over?

Arriving home after a gap year can be as difficult as leaving for one. You’ll need some time to properly transition, both for things like dealing with jet lag and finding a place to stay, as well as adapting to the reverse or re-entry culture shock. Depending on where you voyaged, you’ll find coming “home” requires some adapting.

Don’t be hard on yourself, take your time and gradually manage your expectations. You will want to see family, eat food you haven’t eaten in a long time, and you will share your breathtaking experiences from your adventure. Being around so many people at the same time is a form of adjustment as well.

Will you face challenges?

Taking a gap year can be a tremendous decision. Remember that a gap year is an adventure that changes life once and forever. Even though obstacles and problems are inevitable, the outcome is astonishing.

We hope you enjoyed our article. Analyze all the information above carefully and let’s reach for the stars together.