Should My Teen Do a Gap Year After High School?

Don’t you wish you could have time off to clear your head and explore the world? Luckily for today’s teens, they can take a gap year after high school before entering college or pursuing a career. The popularity of gap years has spread across the Atlantic and is increasingly becoming an option for American high school students. Popular overseas, a gap year is usually spent traveling and/or working. Should your teen do a gap year after high school? Read on to decide!

What should your teen do after high school graduation?
(Photo credit: belchonock,

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Reasons to Choose a Gap Year After High School

Gap years are very popular in the United Kingdom and some of its commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand. Now, their popularity is beginning to reach the USA. Spending a year traveling and gaining life experience may be a worthwhile experience for teens if they can find ways to fund this opportunity.

Your teen can get both educational and social benefits from taking a gap year. Academic burnout can be a real issue at the end of senior year of high school. By this time, students spend years striving to build an academic résumé through academic work and extracurricular activities. Time off from academic pressure may reinvigorate a desire to learn and help clarify a career path.

The American Gap Year Association reports that gap year students are happier and more interested in university after gaining a year of life experience. We expect our children to be more independent when they start college after having cosseted them at home through high school.

A transitional year can help students find their own motivation while getting a taste of independence. In fact, some universities in the Ivy League actively encourage their entering students to take a gap year.

Some teens experience academic burnout after high school
Some teens experience academic burnout after high school (Photo credit: Syda_Productions,

Why NOT to Do a Gap Year

One big downside of a gap year is feeling left behind when many friends start studying at university a year earlier than your teen. Your child will hear stories about how much fun their friends are having fun in college and may understandably suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). On the other hand, hopefully, your teen will have such a fabulous time during the gap year that it balances out.

Finances are another concern. Someone has to fund your teen’s gap year. It is possible to get a gap year scholarship to help with expenses. If your teen decides to take a gap year to gain work experience, then finances are less of an issue, especially if residing in your home.

Of course, there is also the possibility that instead of being motivated to study after a gap year, your teen will lose some academic motivation and discipline. This is something your teen should seriously consider.

Will your teen regret not going to university right after high school?
Will your teen regret not going to university right after high school? (Photo credit: ArturVerkhovetskiy,

What to Do During a Year Off

Traveling is the most popular way to spend a gap year after high school. Travel need not be seen as a frivolous endeavor, however. Your teen can spend a gap year living in another country and learning a new language, volunteering or working abroad, and gaining multicultural experiences that will impress future employers.

Don’t forget that your teen can do a few different things during the year. For example, Prince William spent a gap year before entering St. Andrew’s University. During that year, the Prince worked on a dairy farm in England, volunteered in Chile for 10 weeks where he taught English, and also traveled through Africa. Kate Middleton, likewise, did a combination of things. She sailed boats in England, studied in Florence, and volunteered in Chile.

Your teen could spend the gap year volunteering to make the world a better place
Your teen could spend the gap year volunteering to make the world a better place (Photo credit: mangostock,

Who Can Do a Gap Year

The option of a gap year is not limited to rich or privileged teens. A recent high school graduate spent his gap year working as an assistant physical education teacher at my children’s middle school in London. The students loved having an enthusiastic teen teacher.

They really missed him when he traveled to Latin America and the USA for four months during the school year. He saved money for his trip by working and gained real-life experience. He really enjoyed working with children, too, which solidified his teaching career aspirations.

Many teens spend a gap year traveling and learning about the world
Many teens spend a gap year traveling and learning about the world (Photo credit: d.travnikov,

Learn More Teen Tips

Make the most of your family travels with these teen travel tips.

Is your teen exploring college options? Read our tips for planning a college tour with your teen.

Celebrate your teen’s high school graduation with these graduation trip tips.

Take a look at our tips for a smooth journey with these road trip with teens tips.

Should your teen do a gap year after high school?

Save These Gap Year Pros and Cons

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Would you encourage your teen to do a gap year after high school? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. I am in my 11th grade currently, I live in india, but I really wanna go abroad after 12th. But there’s a lot to do to apply for admissions and it might be stressful at the moment cause I’ll have to do all those along with my 12th grade. My dad suggested me to take a year off and then apply, but I’m not so sure cause if I apply by, say September, and if I get admission hopefully, then i’ ll have to wait till August of next year to go to the university abroad, but while I’m at that, my friends would already be at 1st years at their College, this is really hard decision for me and its complicated.

    1. A V – Congratulations on deciding to study abroad! I studied abroad my junior year of university and it was the best decision I ever made. I didn’t like the study abroad options offered by my university so I did a lot of research at the library to find a program that suited my needs (and this was before the Internet so it was A LOT of work!). Things that are important to us can feel overwhelming, but just do one step at a time and know that eventually, you WILL reach your goal. Good luck in making the right choice!

  2. My daughter is in 12th grade this year and has been considering a gap year off and on. She applied to universities and has some offers she is considering but still hasn’t decided for sure if she wants to attend next year or take a gap year – it’s a big decision!

  3. Oh yes, I would! It gives them time to look at the real world and what it could potentially become, in the next few days. Besides, volunteering their time for a noble cause can be a great idea!

  4. Gap years are really cool I wish I had done that after high school. I think it is great for teens to travel see things and think about what they want to do in life.

  5. A gap year after high school can be a great way to get more experience in a potential career and decide if it’s a good fit for you.

    1. Work experience is so key to knowing which career path to follow. I definitely tried out many different career paths after college: retail management, finance, human resources and marketing!

  6. This is such a fun idea! I actually graduated six months early from High School and then worked full time so I could save money. I wish I had traveled, and it is definitely good to consider doing that before life gets really busy.

  7. My brother wanted to this after he graduated high school and my mom was completely against it. She felt that he would get too comfortable and not want to go to college. I can see the pros and cons of a gap year and I love that there are gap year scholarships.

  8. I think a gap year is a good idea. When I started at the University of Dayton, I was only 1 week past my 18th birthday, so I was one of the youngest people on campus. An additional year, living on my own and working, would have been a great idea.

  9. I personally do not want my kids to take a Gap year. I think I would like to fund a summer abroad before they go off to college, or after their first year. I think that they would feel left behind, and for myself I know that I would lose momentum taking that time off from school and I don’t want that to happen to them. I think its great to weigh the pros and cons though!!

  10. My daughter is in the middle of a gap year, but not much by choice, more by necessity. She has quite a bit of health issues, which is why we all decided that it would be better for her to take a year to tend to her physical health in order to be at her possibly best when starting college this Fall. I am all for taking a gap year! Great article! Blessings!

    1. Hi Claudia – I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s health issues. I’m glad to hear that her gap year has been beneficial, though. Best wishes to her with her fall school start!

  11. After high school I remember that I took a sabbatical and then I enrolled in university, but life often takes a long way and I had to abandon it. I have never taken it back and yet today I find myself building something of my own!