Gap Year or Not?

With graduation coming up, seniors are scrambling to finalize their post graduation plans–whether that is waiting to get off the waitlist of that one dream school, buying merch for a committed university, heading off to technical college, or taking a gap year. 

Defined as a break taken between levels of education, gap years consist of a plethora of opportunities for students–no matter their field or situation. Senior Mercedes Timber explains their plans for their gap year, stating, “Among other things, I am planning on traveling a lot, and exploring parts of the world.. I want to hit all the national parks.” She elaborates, stating that they have considered some gap year programs, which are structured and typically involve some sort of travel. This can be seen with programs such as Sea|mester and Carpe Diem Education, which both structure their programming around travel. 

Others take gap years to focus on careers and abilities. Senior Arshia Batra states, “I know artists that plan on going to art school who are considering taking a gap year to hone their craft and look at more art colleges.” The opportunity for a year to delve into a subject can be tantalizing to some. Senior Jasmine Lin explains how she initially considered a gap year because she “wanted to be an animator, and [heard] that a lot of them took a gap year to start their own business or work on freelancing.” With these additional experiences, students can be more prepared when heading into a university–or simply better equipped for the career that follows. According to an infographic courtesy of the Gap Year Association, 88% of gap year graduates believe their gap year to have increased their employability. The opportunities that an open year can provide contribute immensely to satisfaction and to future career paths.

Of course, these benefits vary by person. After considering a gap year, but later deciding against it, senior Claire Marshall explains how she initially wanted to take some time to find out what she would like to major in and pursue as her career. She goes on to say how she decided against this, stating, “One of the main factors [in not taking a gap year] was that I talked to some other people who went into college not knowing what they were going to do, and discovered that they figured it out during school.” She recounts how this led to her playing it safe: “I did not want to take a gap year and feel more lost.” Others place more of an emphasis on discovery, such as Tinder, who cites not knowing their future career path as a reason for taking a gap year. Although there are risks on both sides, it is important to take into consideration your aspirations and capabilities while evaluating post-graduation plans. 

With the flexibility of postponing an academic year come social repercussions. Batra explains how gap year students fall behind their class, stating, “It adds another year if you decide to go to college, which means you would end up graduating behind a lot of your peers.” Tinder adds that a concern they had was “being looked at like I was never going to go to college.” The social stigma and consequences of taking a gap year are arguably some of the most notable negative results. However, Batra explains how in terms of academics, students will still have the same amount of time to forge bonds, “You can still do things like make relationships with professors. You might not do it as early, but [gap year] students would still have the same amount of time that a regular student would.”  

Gap years are often taken between various levels of education, such as high school and university, or between an undergraduate program and a higher degree. With this comes the question of admissions. Most relevant to high schoolers is undergraduate college admissions. Oftentimes, colleges will allow students to defer their admission to a later period if accepted into a university and taking a gap year, although this varies by school. UW’s website outlines their policies for deferment, stating that “the offer of admission is valid only for the quarter indicated on [the] offer letter.” They go on to state that students must reapply in the quarter they wish to enroll in. Other universities, like Washington State University (WSU), evaluate deferrals on a case-by-case basis. 

In the case of reapplication, Batra believes that “you would have to justify why a gap year was taken and what area you improved in.” The opportunities that a gap year open up allow for a story and experiences unique to oneself, something that is typically seen as positive within college applications.

For those who are uncertain of their future career path, want to travel and be exposed to diverse perspectives, or are looking for an opportunity to enhance existing skills, a gap year is a great option to explore!