Should Your Teen Do a Gap Year After High School?

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Don’t you wish sometimes that 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!

Should your teen do a gap year after high school?

(Photo credit: Canva.com)

What are the pros of a gap year after high school?

Your teen can get both educational and social benefits from taking a gap year. At the end of senior year of high school, academic burnout can be a real issue. By this time, students spend years striving to build an academic resume 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.

What are the cons of a gap year after high school?

One big downside of a gap year is feeling left behind when many friends start studying at a 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, 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.

How to find a gap year after high school

Your teen will need to find a way to fund a gap year (Photo credit: Shobha George)

What should your teen do during a gap year?

Traveling is the most popular way to spend a gap year after high school. Travel need not be seen as a frivolous endeavor, though. 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 the 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.

should your teen do a gap year abroad

Carefully planning a gap year with your teen ensures an educational and fun experience (Photo credit: Shobha George)

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 took four months to travel to Latin America and the USA 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.

Why do 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 your teen if you can find ways to fund this opportunity.

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

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About Shobha George, The Expat Travel Mama

Shobha George lives in London, England with her husband, two children (boy/girl twins) and dog. Although she grew up in New York, she has spent most of her adult life as an expat in Asia and Europe, which has been a great help in feeding her travel addiction. She and her family enjoy nice hotels, good food and other creature comforts. She is the author of Just Go Places blog. You can follow her adventures on Instagram at @justgoplaces.

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