Is a Gap Year After College Right for You?

Is a Gap Year After College Right for You?

Catherine on March 4, 2016

Gap years post-high school have become increasingly common, with students delaying college to broaden their experiences beforehand. The concept of a “gap year” after college, however, is a path less taken. After all, conventional wisdom tells us that college prepares us for careers, and that we should presumably jump into those careers right away. But what if, during your senior year in college, you realize you’re not yet ready for that first job, or you’re not ready for graduate school? Then you might consider taking a gap year.

What can you do during a gap year?

You can always go backpacking through Europe or invent some sort of taco tour for yourself on your own dime, but there are other great ways you can travel, too. Consider teaching English or volunteering at a nonprofit or charity in another country. You’ll find you can immerse yourself in a new culture and still get meaningful work experience out of the year. After all, a “gap year” doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be unemployed. It can simply mean that you’re putting your career as a future successful English professor on temporary hold to save wildlife in South America for a year.

If traveling isn’t particularly your thing, there are plenty of local opportunities available to you. How about learning a new language, taking some courses at a nearby school, or volunteering with an organization that serves your community?

What are the pros of a gap year?

A gap year after college lets you figure things out on your own time – maybe you’re not sure that you really want to be a professor after all, and don’t want to commit to all those years of graduate school right away. Taking a gap year lets you gain some valuable experience while still giving you the space you need to consider (or reconsider) your career goals.

A gap year can also be a great chance to see different parts of the world, particularly so if you never studied abroad while in college. You can learn about other lifestyles, make new friends around the world, and come back with a renewed sense of your own future.

And, of course, a gap year takes you out of the hectic stress accompanied with most entry-level jobs and graduate schools. You’ve spent the last four (or more) years hitting the books and balancing multiple commitments. Taking a year off lets you re-energize for your upcoming career.

What are the cons of a gap year?

A gap year can come with financial costs, especially if you spend your time volunteering instead of working. You’ll need to carefully look at your finances and see if taking a gap year is a viable option for you based on the numbers. However, if you participate in a structured program (such as teaching abroad), you will likely receive a travel and/or living stipend to help offset some of the costs.

Taking this kind of time off will also delay your career by a year. If you plan on going to graduate school, you’ll graduate a year later than you would without taking a gap year. If you plan on working, your friends will have a year of experience in their arsenal before you get started. In the grand scheme of things and in the long-term, taking one year off makes little difference, but it can impact your career in the early days.

In summary

It’s up to you to assess the pros and cons of taking a gap year after college and see if it’s the right move. Many students who go the gap year route call the experience life-changing and transformative, but others can’t imagine delaying their careers and look forward to getting started with their career journeys after college. Feel free to let us know what you decide in the comments!


About the Author:

Catherine Blogger PhotoCatherine supports Magoosh’s future grad school students by unlocking tricks of the test prep and application trade. Catherine spends her free time checking out local farmer’s markets, reading food and lifestyle blogs, and watching Bravo. She is forever in search of the best Mexican and Italian food in any given city.

Photo attributions:
1 – Photo at top courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Felipe Lachowski under Creative Commons License 2.0.