Long before high school seniors fret about those caps and gowns in the next few months, they’ve been thinking about the next step. Students are encouraged to go to college fresh out of high school, with recruiters, parents, counselors ad advisors hounding them to decide which colleges and courses of study they’ll pursue as early as their Junior year. But is it always a good idea to go to college right away? What are the possible risks students face if they take a year off, and what are the potential benefits?

To even consider the idea, you’ll have to get past the biggest perceived dangers:

  • Lack of productivity
  • Loss of momentum and the risk of never going at all
  • Decreased chance of getting into a desirable university

The term ‘gap year’ evokes images of a terrifying stereotype: teens who live at home, are jobless, watch Netflix all day, and order takeout. Is this the reality for most who take a break between high school and college? According to the American Gap Association (AGA) and other advocates, it doesn’t have to be. A gap year is ideally a structured, purposeful time for students to work, volunteer, and engage in many experiences beyond the scope of the classroom.

What about the risk of not returning? Doesn’t the act of entering the job market sign the death warrant for higher education? Not anymore. Instead of decreasing the motivation to go to college, a gap year can give teens a much-needed ‘reset’ from academic burnout. If you’re still worried, AGA reports that students who ‘gap’ are 90% likely to return to college within a year.


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