The Pros and Cons of College Student Gap Years

Classrooms Team

Nov 8, 2020
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You’re about to start another semester of college, and it makes you more anxious than excited. Whether you just finished your first semester as a freshman or another grade, many students find themselves in your shoes. You should feel thrilled to pursue your degree because it’s something you’re passionate about. Could a gap year help you figure out what to do with your life?

People have wildly different opinions about taking a break from school, so research the facts and come to your own conclusion. Check out the pros and cons of college student gap years to determine if it’ll help you find your path in life or waste your time.

Pro: You Can Leave Any Time

Depending on your situation, you can likely leave school any time you’d like. No one’s going to lock you in your dorm or force you to attend class.

Your school will be waiting for you when or if you decide to come back. The only thing that could keep you from leaving is an off-campus apartment lease, but you can talk with your landlord about subleasing, so another student takes over your rent.

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Con: You Need to Have a Plan

Some people find student gap years appealing because they feel academically aimless. That year might give you more time to decide what you want to study, but how will you make that happen?

Don’t leave school without a plan. Think about spending your time learning new skills, investing in them, or learning about career possibilities that don’t require college degrees.

Pro: The Stats Are Promising

When you talk with friends and family about taking a gap year, they might say that most students don’t return to school. It’s a common myth spurned by worried loved ones who want the best for you. Recent research found that 90% of people who took student gap years returned to school within a year, as long as they were enrolled in a college first.

Whether you return to school is up to you. It all depends on what you do with the extra year and free time.

Con: You Could Lose Momentum

You’ve been in school for your entire life, so why would returning be difficult? You’re currently used to the rhythm of classes, homework, and exams.

After a year away, you’ll have to tap back into those instincts. It could take time and be a frustrating experience, ultimately requiring you to retake classes and lose the momentum that would have carried you across the graduation stage.

Pro: You Can Get Field Experience

Even if you graduate on time or early, you might not get a job in your dream career field because you don’t have experience. According to a recent survey, 66% of recruiters consider work experience critical when deciding who to hire.

A gap year clears your schedule for a job or internship that gives you the experience employers want. You’ll get to devote all your time and attention to it, instead of splitting yourself between your school and work responsibilities.

Con: It Still Costs Money

College is expensive, but so is living on your own. If your financial challenges are why you want to leave, it might be smarter to stay in class. Leaving college means paying for expenses such as:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Car insurance
  • Food
  • Necessities

Without a college degree, you’ll likely make minimum wage. The average of $7.50 per hour leaves you below the poverty line, so you might have to work multiple jobs to afford to live independently.

You could also lose out on your scholarship by leaving, resulting in additional future student loans. If you’ve already paid for your room and meal plan, you might not get refunded for those either. Consider all of the financial pros and cons before making any final decisions.

Pro: You Can Live Your Dreams

After graduation, the traditional goal is to get a full-time job and eventually settle down. It’s more difficult to chase your dreams when you have a workplace, spouse, or children relying on you.

Taking a gap year could mean you can travel the world or experience that cross-country road trip you’ve dreamed of. Maybe you start a business you love. It all comes back to having a plan regarding how you’ll use your new free time to your advantage.

Con: It’s a Gamble

You could land that job or internship after leaving school, but you could also spend months waiting to get hired. That’s time that could have advanced your academic career.

Even if things work out, you’ll postpone your graduation by another year. This might be an influencing concern if you feel pressed for time due to your age or other responsibilities.

Consider Your Career

The pros and cons of college student gap years look a little different depending on what you want for your life. How necessary is a degree for what you want to do? Do you have a career in mind at all? Take your time to think things through before embarking on your gap year or continuing your education.

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