6 situations that may require a gap year program

By Annie Rose Stathes, Edited by Valeri Boyle
Published February 12, 2014

What is a Gap Year?

Gap year programs are designed for students who have just completed high school and are planning on entering college. They allow students to defer entering college for one year while they live in another country through a structured program. Students in gap year programs enjoy many benefits: they learn new languages, meet new people, gain valuable experience, explore various career options (depending on the program), and earn college credit (again, depending on the program). Ultimately, gap year programs allow students to take a year off of school to explore, consider, examine, and think, all while enjoying a meaningful, structured, international experience.

Consider a Gap Year Program If…

You want to go to college, but need to take a break from school and aren’t exactly sure what to study in college anyway.

You’re not alone. I can’t tell you how many college freshman have expressed to me that they have no idea why they are in college or what they would like to study. They know they would like to do something mature and responsible and that they would like to continue learning, but they are not positive they would like to do so in a four-year college setting, at least not right away. This is perfectly natural for eighteen year-old students who have just completed twelve years of education and are considering what to do with the next four. And, not only do students have to decide what they want to study for four years, they also have to decide what they want to do as adults, for a living, for a good portion of their lives. This makes entering college and selecting a major a daunting task. If this is you, taking a gap year abroad might be an excellent option.

You are hungry for an adventure and curious about the world.

The world is a beautiful place and you are ready to explore it. Yet you do not want to lose sight of going to school; you are interested in going to college, and you want to do something that will enhance your college applications and resumes, but you need some time to enjoy an adventure, especially in another exciting country. Gap year programs allow you to enjoy meaningful international travel while at the same time enhancing your college application and, in some cases, earning college credit. Most importantly, they allow you to enrich your life and satisfy your itch for a meaningful and fulfilling adventure.

You want to explore your options.

You have some ideas about what you want to do, but you are not positive, and you are not ready to devote four years of study to one given subject. You want to explore your options, examine a career field, and get your toes wet. A gap year program could be a great fit for you. Look for one that will allow you to explore your interests and examine potential fields of study.

You know your major, and you know an international program will benefit you.

You want to study the culinary arts, in France, but without the commitment of a full program; you want to study international affairs but have not yet spent a significant amount of time in another country; you want to major in world history but need to witness the magic of ancient ruins firsthand in order to put things in context; you want to study public health but first want to know more about HIV prevention in certain countries. If you know what you want to do, and you know that international experience will boost your college experience, consider taking a gap year abroad.

You want to boost your resume and college application.

Perhaps you’ve made a few “mistakes” in high school and have a less than stellar academic record; or maybe you have a good academic record but need to boost it to get into the university of your choice; either way, participating in a gap year program can provide a great opportunity to boost your resume and college application. Colleges and universities love to know that students can handle adversity, diversity, pressure, and challenge. Gap year programs can help you prove to the colleges and universities of your choice that you have many of the qualities they’re looking for. Plus, depending on the program, gap year programs can allow you to add language skills, community service work, and college credit to your repertoire of good qualities.

You’re tired of school, don’t want to go to college, and have no idea what you should do (but you plan on going to college anyway).

Give yourself a break and do something nice for yourself that will enrich your life and grant you some time for reflection. Gap year programs are great options for people who need some time to reflect upon where they’ve been, what they’re doing, and where they’re going. Plus, gap year programs allow you to gain meaningful experience so that if and when you do decide to go to college, you’re prepared.

Annie Rose Stathes is a Colorado-based writer, teacher and political scientist. Her background is in international affairs and she holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science.