The Pros & Cons of Taking a Gap Year

Compare the advantages and disadvantages of dedicating a gap year to personal growth through travel.

A gap year is a dedicated period, often taken by young adults, where you take a break from your normal job or academia and instead pursue growth through experiences. Gap years often involve international travel, volunteering, and internships

Pro: The skills you’ll gain can help your resume stand out

A gap year provides the opportunity for you to develop valuable skills that can’t be learned in the classroom. Cultural awareness, organization, independence, and increased confidence are just some of the skills that are gained by taking a year out. According to the Gap Year Association Data and Benefits, gap-year alumni also report higher job satisfaction.

Con: You’ll be ‘pausing’ your studies or traditional job for a year

As your friends immediately move on to college, or their next semester, or your colleagues have another year of ‘climbing the ladder,’ it is important to recognize the opportunity cost of taking intentional time off. What you spend your time doing during your gap year, however, can quickly make up for the apparent ‘time lost’ as you are still learning, growing, and working towards your goals, just through new and exciting means.

Pro: You’ll meet new people and gain a broader perspective

A gap year will push you out of your comfort zone and day-to-day activities, which will inherently put new people into your life. Whether it’s through cultural immersion in another country or volunteering locally, the more people you meet the more you will learn about humanity and yourself.

Con: You might get homesick

A feeling most travelers experience at some point, homesickness is the emotional ‘pain’ experienced when away from your family, friends, pets, and overall safety net. If your gap year involves international travel, taking care of your mental health and recognizing if and when you need help is important.

Many gappers are new to solo travel, and the same challenges and discomfort that force growth also come with hard times and a barrage of emotions. Missing family, friends, or simply home comforts is completely natural during a gap year and doesn’t make it any less meaningful, so don’t be afraid to experience the hard times as well as the good ones.

Pro: It’s a great way to learn new things, outside of your comfort zone

A gap year will provide you with lessons not found in a classroom. Whether it’s gaining real-world experience related to your studies, or chasing new experiences through travel and picking up odd jobs, a gap year lets you learn as you do by forcing you into completely new situations.

Additionally, a gap year is a time to learn more about yourself, what drives and inspires you, and grow your self-confidence. Whether you’re volunteering, working, studying, or just traveling, you’re bound to learn.

Con: If you don’t set goals, it could potentially waste a lot of time

When you take a break from the structure of traditional schooling or a set job schedule, it is important to be intentional with what you do with your time, or before you know it, it will be gone. To prevent wasted time, you should start planning and saving as soon as you decide to take a gap year. It may be helpful to set goals for yourself so you don’t lose track of time or miss deadlines. When dealing with international travel, things like visa applications can take time and travel becomes much more expensive if you procrastinate.

If you’re looking to learn new things through travel and can dedicate time to self-growth and exploration, then YES, you should consider a gap year!

There’s no denying that spending time abroad will enhance your résumé, teach you valuable new skills, and grow your confidence through unique experiences. The benefits of a gap year can’t be touted enough, but, a gap year is not for everyone and there are other things you can consider. Especially for individuals who are new to traveling or can’t commit to time away from school, there may be better options, like studying abroad.

Want to learn more about gap years, directly from the experts? Don’t miss the opportunity. Philotimo will provide abroad exposure to gap year options and connect prospective gap year students, parents, gap year organizations, educators, experts, and alumni.

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