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Mind the gap: Gap year or straight to college?

Possible gap year activities

Shayna Dix
January 27, 2017

“What are you going to be when you grow up?”

It’s a question people ask you even after high school. As college approaches, the pressure to know what you want to do when you graduate is overwhelming — even though many people don’t know the answer well into adulthood. Because of that pressure, many students consider taking a “gap year.”

Bugs Bunny

Before you reject it as impractical or whimsical, take a few minutes to think about some of the benefits, and some of the negatives, of taking a year off between high school and college. I’ve compiled some of those pros and cons, wrapped them in a velvety bow, and offered them here to help you decide which is the right path for you.


  • The National Alumni Survey from the American Gap Association concluded that students who take gap years are less likely to transfer, more likely to finish college faster, and may end up having more job satisfaction.
  • According to researchers, some people see gap year students as "more mature, more self-reliant and independent" than students who don't take a gap year.
  • A study of more than 900 first-year students revealed that in certain situations, a gap year gives students the chance to learn and acquire knowledge that will help them be successful in college.  


  • Life is expensive, and it seems impractical (and costly) to take an entire year off between high school and college. Still, even if your parents aren’t able to contribute and you have no savings, there are other options, including scholarships specifically allocated to helping students take a gap year. You’ll also find internship opportunities and programs designed for students who want to travel, learn and grow personally during that year.
  • Taking the gap for the wrong reasons can lead to an unproductive year. Are you sure you are holding off on your education for a purpose? (No, holding off on college to play video games doesn’t count as one of the right reasons.)
  • What about timing? If the job market is currently booming, you might miss out on a job in the long run if you wait a year.

Still need some extra insight? CollegeView.com offers even more pros and cons as you weigh your decision.  

So there you have it. Hopefully now you have everything you need to make your decision.

Shayna Dix

is a junior majoring in Elementary Education at UNC. She’s working toward her licensure to work in a third-grade classroom. In the meantime, she is studying leadership in the President’s Leadership Program and working with the Bear Hug Club and the Ambassadors for Student Leadership Club. She’s forgotten the meaning of "free time."