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!

What should your teen do after high school graduation?

(Photo credit: belchonock, Depositphotos.com)

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. 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 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, Depositphotos.com)

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, Depositphotos.com)

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, Depositphotos.com)

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.

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, Depositphotos.com)

Learn More Teen 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.

Traveling with teens can be a challenge…or not. 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

If your teen is considering taking a gap year after high school, then be sure to save these tips. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

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

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.

Comments
  1. 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!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Life has a way of taking us on paths we may not have intended but which work out anyway. Congrats on your entrepreneurial efforts!

  2. 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!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      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!

  3. This was an interesting read. I had no idea that there were gap year scholarships!

  4. That’s a hard call to be honest. It’s so nice that there’s gap year scholarships though.

  5. 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!!

  6. 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.

  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. 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.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Life does tend to get busier and busier as we get older, doesn’t it?! How smart of you to save money, though, during your gap year!

  9. Yudith Napitupulu says

    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.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      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!

  10. Steven Morrissette says

    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.

  11. Ntensibe Edgar says

    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!

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