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Considering a Gap Year?

If you read my last blog post, you will know that a gap year was an integral part of my journey to college, and it could be a part of yours as well. Gap years are increasingly becoming more common for graduating high school students. They can be invaluable opportunities, to work, travel, learn and grow.

What did I get up to on my gap year?

I knew that I wanted to travel, but I didn’t have the money to do so. So the first thing I did was look for a job close to home. I ended up working part time in a Wegman’s bakery and also as a nanny for a local family. During the six months that I worked, I was researching and planning a two month trip through western Europe for myself and a friend. In late March, we left our jobs (with advance notice to our employers). We visited: Dublin, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and London. We stayed in a combination of Hostels and friend’s homes.

Me and my travel buddy at the Notre-Dame de Paris

Above: Me and my travel buddy at the Notre-Dame de Paris

How do you know if you should consider taking a gap year?

Consider the following questions when deciding if a gap year may be a good option for you.

Do you feel like you need  time to mature?

College is a place to learn and gain maturity, but it does require a certain amount of maturity going in as well. If you find yourself depending on others to be responsible for you, you may consider using a gap year to gain some independence.

Do you wish you had more money?

Gap years can be used to work a full time job or internship. It’s ok to simply work and make money if you think it will help lighten the burden of your financial responsibilities. Additionally, just because you work doesn’t mean you can’t have fun during your gap year. (I did both!)

Do you want to travel?

While you can certainly travel during college through study abroad programs, sometimes it’s nice to travel without having to worry about doing your homework at the end of the day. That being said, sometimes you can travel and do some amazing work at the same time.


Would you like hands-on experience before getting to college?

Working an internship in a field that you are interested in studying, such as government, marketing, medicine, business, etc. can be a valuable way to gain experience.

Do you need a mental break?

Many of us work our butts off during high school to be the best we can be, and that can be tiring. Many students come out of high school with depression or anxiety, or are simply burnt out. That is a-okay! You are allowed to take time off from school to maintain your mental health and well being either before college and/or during college. It is not a race to graduate.

Do you have a skill you want to try?

Some of my friends used their gap years to write and perform music, work as a photographer, or compete in various national and global competitions.

There are many reasons to take a gap year, but I recognize that they aren’t always for everyone. If you feel like you are ready to jump into college right after high school, that is cool too. However if you do want to take a gap year, and you aren’t sure how to go about it, a good place to start is your school guidance counselor. They may have access to opportunities in your area and may be able to help you plan your year. They can also help you talk to your parents about why a gap year may be the right choice for you.

About the author

Hi, my name is Rhea and I’m a junior here at Harvard College. I am studying Archaeology and Integrative Biology. I was originally born and raised in Sharon, Massachusetts, however, I now live in... View full profile

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