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Gap Years

Gap Years

After over a decade of school, and the busy years of high school, it’s easy to feel burnt out. To be tired of looking at textbooks. 

Or maybe it’s not the exhaustion from stress. Maybe it’s a burning curiosity to explore an interest or gain practical life experience as opposed to the theoretical. 

Or confusion about the path forward… the type of major to pursue or the career to explore. 

Many students opt to take a gap year. A year of just traveling, volunteering, interning, working, pursuing creative projects, learning new skills, or participating in structured gap year programs.

The duration of a gap year can vary, ranging from a few months to a full academic year.

Before we go any further with gap years, I want to take a moment to say: gap years are NOT for sitting at home playing videos or hanging out with your friends. 

The purpose is to take a break from textbook & in-class learning to gain practical life experience. To see other ways of life, maybe dive into various career options or skill acquisition. 

Gap years are also an opportunity to mature and learn to be independent before you go off to college. A time for you to introduce new people, ideas, and lifestyles into your realm so that you can see the numerous possibilities as you craft your own life.  

As for the various possibilities that you can explore in your gap year? Let’s check them out!


  1. Travel and Cultural Immersion: You can participate in language immersion programs, volunteer abroad, or design your own backpacking experience.Most Americans are also unaware of the Working-Holiday Visa, which allows those in the 18-30 age range legally work while traveling through certain countries. It’s a good way to earn your travel money on-the-go.If you prefer to go with a program, here’s a list of possible programs by area of interest. Take time to truly appreciate and enjoy the cultures, to talk to the locals, and understand history and inner workings of the county. To learn the languages if you’re interested and see what makes that country & culture special.Most importantly be humble and grateful for your experiences.
  2. Volunteering and Community Service: Volunteering – locally or internally – can you not only make a positive impact on society but also instill a sense of social responsibility. A feeling of community as volunteers all come together for one cause.Areas for volunteering include education, healthcare, environmental conservation, or community development.


  3. Internships and Work Experience: There’s honestly no better way to know if a career is right for you than to go into the work setting and try it out yourself.

    You could use your gap year to explore different career paths through internships, shadowing professionals, or participating in career-focused programs. If you’re curious about a career, see if you can find people in your own network who work in the field. Talk to them about their jobs and ask them what it took to get to where they are.If you don’t know anyone working in any of your areas of interests, head over to LinkedIn and create a profile (for 18 years and older). LinkedIn will allow you to search for individuals based on their careers. Once you find people with careers of interest, message them and ask if you could send a few questions about their profession their way. You can then build you way up from there.Remember, the more people you message, the more likely someone is to engage.


  4. Skill Development and Personal Projects: You can use your gap year to develop new skills or hone existing ones.Websites like Coursera and Udemy offer inexpensive certifications for professional positions such as Project Management and UX/UI Design. There are many more options to explore and quite a few certifications take only 6 months to complete.Even if you’re unclear about your career path, it may be nice to have a few certifications under your belt to give you some breathing room. You could end up with a decent- or well-paying job while in college. It could be a great way to reduce your student loans burden.Other skills that can be great to have in the current and upcoming market: Digital Marketing, Sales, Video Editing, and Prompt-Engineering for various AI programs.No matter which career path you end up choosing, you can’t go wrong with these skills. They’ll come in handy and allow you to make some extra cash along the way.In addition to online courses and certifications, you can also acquire technical skills (check out the local community college, if interested), or pursue artistic endeavors. Personal projects such as writing a book, creating art, launching a social impact initiative, or even a research project.


  5. Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Honestly, gap years can be an ideal time to explore your entrepreneurial interests and launch your own ventures.Fear and the need for comfort increase with age so most young adults are not yet set in their ways, and their willingness to take calculated – and unfortunately uncalculated – risks is high, it’s a great time to take on a big project. Additionally, most young adults have limited responsibilities and good health, so it’s a life stage that allows the time, flexibility, and space for continuous trial-and-error.You can work on business ideas, create startups, or participate in entrepreneurship programs that provide guidance and mentorship.Even if everything goes south, you’ll learn a lot of new skills and build your resilience muscle.


  6. Part-time or Full-time Work: In order to reduce their student loan debt, some students prefer to work for a year to accumulate funds before heading off to college.

    If this option interests you, I recommend finding jobs that also help you explore career paths.For example, if you’re interested in law or medicine, see if there’s a legal or medical office in need of a receptionist.Working there will give you an opportunity to gauge the atmosphere and the day-to-day life of the professionals to see if you want that for yourself. 
  7. Personal Growth and Mental Health: Taking a breather for your mental health is an important aspect of a gap year. After years of rigorous coursework, sports, community service, part-time jobs, and the entire college applications process, it’s only natural to want a break.

    If needed, particularly for those whose anxiety may have been on a roller coaster ride the last year due to college applications, seek professional counseling or activities such as meditation, journaling, and nature walks, or pursue your hobbies and physical fitness.Side Note: Depending on the university, counseling services may also be available for free to students.Of course, you may get bored if you take an entire year for mental health, so I recommend combining one of the previously mentioned topics with this one. You can do a few months of a certain travel, work, or volunteer experience, then a few months of break.Up to you how you’d like to use the time.


Considering all the amazing possibilities we just talked about for gap years, the most obvious question ends up being “Great, who’s going to pay for that?

I want it said that I don’t think parents should feel obligated to nor should they voluntarily fund their teen’s entire gap year.

I like the idea of lighting a bit of a fire under the teen because if helps them learn of their own resourcefulness. Their own willingness and ability to work towards a goal they genuinely care about. It’s a genuinely great learning and growth opportunity. 

  • Savings: Start saving money early. Even if you can only save a small from birthday or holiday presents. 
  • Part-time job: Get a part-time job or different types of seasonal jobs while you are still in high school or during your gap year. This can help you earn money to fund your travel, expenses, or tuition.

I’ve had a former student who not only worked at a local coffee shop over two summers, but then during her gap year, she cycled 3 months of travel, then 3 months of work, then travel, and finally worked again to ensure she had enough cash before starting college. 

I’ve also had students whose parents agreed to match whatever their teens saved up or chose to buy the roundtrip tickets. 

Really, the parents stepped in when safety and health were concerns, but other than that, it was up to the teen to budget and plan.

  • Scholarships and grants: There are a number of scholarships and grants available to students who are planning to take a gap year. Do some research on or FastWeb or other scholarship platforms to find those you are eligible for.
  • Crowdfunding: I like the idea of Crowdfunding via GoFundMe or Kickstarter if you’re starting a business or serving the community in some way. Create your page and reach out to friends, family, and social media followers. Be respectful and keep in mind that no one is obligated to support the cause. 

With that said, gap years are NOT for everyone.


Gap years can be beneficial for a wide range of students, but they may be particularly well-suited for the following types:

  1. Students in Need of a Break: Some students may feel burnt out after completing high school and desire a break from academic studies. I’ll admit that I was one of them. However, gap years weren’t much of a concept back then, so I chugged along college. The 4-years dragged on.
  2. Students Seeking Clarity and Exploration: Many students enter college without a clear sense of their career goals or academic interests. As we talked about earlier, a gap year can be a great time to explore various career options, find internships or volunteer work, and talk to professionals in career paths of interest.
  3. Students Eager for Personal Growth and Maturity: Many parents worry that their teens are not mature enough to be sent away for college just yet. While most teens will figure it out once in college because their own survival skills will kick in, another option is to take a gap year and engage in one or more of the previously mentioned options.
  4. Students Seeking Real-World Experience: School tends to provide a high volume of theoretical knowledge. As such, it’s an overload of history, language, and math, but very little about effective communication skills, building and maintaining networks, etc.Schools are not designed to teach values such as hard work, persistence, open-mindedness, resilience, and so on. These come from real-world experience, and it can be nice to have a year of real-world experience before going back into the academic atmosphere.


  1. Have Clear Academic and Career Goals: Some students know exactly what they want to study or the career they want to go into. If they have conducted thorough research, identified specific academic programs that align with their interests, and are ready to run to college then a gap year may only seem annoying.
  2. Thrive in an Academic Environment: For students who are motivated by structured academic settings and enjoy the rigors of formal education, transitioning directly to college or university may be a natural and fulfilling progression. They may be looking forward to the challenge.
  3. Have Financial Considerations: Taking a gap year may not be financially feasible for all students. Those who have secured scholarships, financial aid, or other means to support their education may choose to continue to college without any interruptions.


If you are planning to take a gap year, here are a few ways you can go about completing your college applications process. 

  1. Apply before your gap year: If you have a specific college or university in mind and want to secure your admission before taking a gap year, you can apply during your final year of high school like any other student. Then once you’ve been accepted, reach out the admissions team and ask for a gap year. You’ll have paperwork to complete, including specifics of how you plan to spend your time.If you’re planning to use this approach, be aware of the university’s specific deadlines for gap year applications.This is also called “deferred admission”.
  2. Apply during your gap year: You can delay your entire applications process by a year. Instead of applying to universities in senior year like everyone else, you can wait another cycle.It’ll give you extra time to pull your application together, and your experiences may give you more to write about.
  3. During College: Not all students who choose to take gap years do so between the high school to college transition period. Some complete a year or two of college before taking time off.The advantages to doing that are increased maturity, skill/knowledge acquisition from the first 1-2 years of college, and of course the fact that you’re already in college means that college admission isn’t an issue.If that’s the approach you want to go for, then check out the university’s policies & requirements on the topic.

It’s important to note that each university will have its own policies and deadlines regarding gap years and deferred admission. Therefore, you have to thoroughly research and communicate with the schools you are interested in to understand their specific requirements and timelines.


If planned properly, gap years can be blast. They can provide new experiences and throw you into a quintessential bootcamp for life skills. 

There’s no faster or more ideal way to learn than by practical experience. 

Gap years can include traveling, volunteering, interning, working, pursuing creative projects, learning new skills, or participating in structured gap year programs… but that doesn’t mean that they’re for everyone.

And that those who can’t or don’t want to have gap years can gain similar life experiences by participating in study aboard programs, co-op opportunities, internships, research opportunities, etc., once in college. 

So, do your research and figure out which approach is best for you. 

Talk soon,