You’re about to graduate from high school, and you're considering the next step. After 13 years of school, taking a break is an enticing option. Before you decide to stop going to school, consider the disadvantages of taking a gap year. In addition to losing momentum, you may find a year away from school to be an expensive break.
Examine your options and discuss your future interests with family or a trusted mentor before making a firm decision. You may even want to write down the advantages and disadvantages of a gap year to get the full picture.
Don’t Lose Your Academic Edge
You may be experiencing burnout from test taking and paper writing, but absence from academic work may cause you to lose some of what you’ve learned. Going directly to college is a continuation of your academic learning. You’ve developed study habits and know how to hit the books. If you take a break, you’ll need a refresher on study skills and time-management skills.
Disadvantages of Gap Year Travel
Traveling the world is an enticing alternative to sitting in a classroom, but it isn’t free of charge. Traveling abroad can be very expensive, and some of the formalized programs cost as much if not more than a year of college tuition. You can defray the expense by working as an au pair or by serving in the Peace Corps, but you’ll have to be ready to commit a lot of time and energy to the application process.
It Can Be Tough to Go Back
One of the disadvantages of a student gap year is that it will be tough to go back to school. If you start earning money and experiencing a life free of school responsibilities, it can be difficult to regain the discipline needed to be a student. If you’re interested in traveling, consider going to college and pursuing a semester abroad. You’ll be able to continue your studies and see the world at the same time.
Saving Money Can Be a Catch 22
You may be weighing the financial advantages and disadvantages of a gap year. Living on your own can be expensive, and you may find that it’s difficult to save money for college. If you’re able to live with family for free, it’s possible to save enough money to put a dent in your first year of college tuition costs. Participating in a formal gap year program could eat away at the savings that could otherwise be dedicated to your college tuition.
You’ll Be Behind Other Students
One of the disadvantages of a student gap year is that you’ll be behind other students when you return to school. This is particularly concerning if you’re interested in going to college with friends or you’re pursuing an academic program that requires postgraduate education.
For example, becoming a physician may require eight years of education following your undergraduate degree. A gap year eats up another year of time that could be dedicated to an academic program.
Planning Can Be a Challenge
One of the disadvantages of a gap year is that you’ll need to be well organized and plan to get the most out of your break from school. As you finish up high school, you’ll have final exams, graduation parties and other end-of-year responsibilities that will consume your time.
If you want to make the most out of a gap year, you’ll need to start planning early on during your senior year. Traveling abroad, admission to a gap year program or finding a job in another country takes a great deal of time and effort.
Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.