Some of the images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19.
Should I take a gap year? If you’ve asked yourself this question tons of times and never found the answer, our “Should I Take a Gap Year?” quiz will set you straight.
By the end of this read, you’ll be better equipped to decide whether that gap year option is for you or not. Plus, you’ll discover a host of handy information on what gap years can entail as you go.
Should I Take a Gap Year?
We’ve come up with six simple questions that you can answer to figure out if taking a gap year is for you.
1) Would you like to take time off after high school or before working?
c) I don’t know
2) Are you looking for a chance to learn through practical experience?
c) I don’t know
3) Would you like to travel?
c) I don’t know
4) Do you have time to spare to join a gap year program? (Anywhere from two weeks to 12 months is enough time).
c) I don’t know
5) Would you prefer a travel experience where you’re backed by a support team – specifically before, during and after your trip?
c) I don’t know
6) Do you want to gain qualifications that add to your college applications and/or employability?
c) I don’t know
For every “yes” you’ve answered, give yourself two points, for every “I don’t know” give yourself one point, and for every “no” don’t add any points.
Once you’ve added everything up, find the category below that includes your score.
Category one: A score of 0
If you’ve answered no to all of the questions above, a gap year may not be the best opportunity for you. You could look into GVI’s service-learning, volunteer or internship programs, or even our virtual internships for more opportunities. And, you can get in touch with our staff to figure out which option would be the best fit for you.
Category two: A score from 1–8
Your score shows that you may need to gain more clarity before you’ll be able to confidently answer the question, “Should I take a gap year?” A lot of clarity can come from defining your personal and professional goals more clearly. Read this article to see how you can get this done in a few simple steps: Take control of your future: A step-by-step guide. Doing some more research on what a gap year is all about, and the disadvantages and advantages of taking a gap year can also be helpful. This will make it easier for you to make an informed decision. You can get in touch with GVI staff or read up on our gap-year focused blog articles to learn more about taking a gap year.
Category three: A score from 9–12
If you were iffing and umming about whether or not to take a gap year before, you won’t need to anymore. According to your score, many of the benefits that come with taking a gap year appeal to you, and this is a great place to start. Now that you know that a gap year is a good choice for you, you can start working out the specifics, like whether you’d like to get involved in a gap year focused on conservation or community development, and which destination abroad you’d like to travel to.
Next, we’ll look into some of the reasons why students should take a gap year, as well as the advantages of taking a gap year.
Why students should take a gap year
Taking a gap year can be a great idea at any stage of life, but this type of opportunity holds tons of potential benefits for those who’ve recently finished high school or are due to start college.
Your high school or college years will bring up tons of serious questions like “Am I sure of my career goals?” or “Will I be able to find work easily after graduating college?” These questions can make you worry about the future if you don’t put them into perspective.
For example, you can worry about whether or not the career goal you’ve set is right for you – and if your high school subject choices were even the best options. Or, you can broaden your perspective, and acknowledge that it’s okay to dip your toe into different opportunities so that you can be sure.
Further reading: Top ten gap year ideas to inspire you
And if you like the sound of your career choice but don’t really know how it’ll play out in real life, why not take the time to gain real-world experience and confirm that the career you think you want is what you want?
Further reading: Which gap year program is best for my career?
Taking a gap year means that you’ll have time to be part of a program that’s designed to help you explore and clarify all of these aspects and more.
Here are some of the best advantages of taking a gap year that’ll fill you in on more reasons why students should take a gap year.
Four of the best advantages of taking a gap year
1) You’ll gain a broader perspective
Getting out of your comfort zone is the first step in broadening your perspective, and taking part in gap year programs abroad means even more opportunity for growth.
When you travel to volunteer in another country, you’ll work with members of the local community, fellow volunteers and organisation staff members. This exposure will help you learn soft skills like cultural tolerance and compromise. This will add to your personal and professional growth in meaningful ways.
For example, you may end up taking a gap year in Costa Rica and quickly figure out that learning Spanish and trying to speak it as much as possible is a great way to build relationships with local people. This will grow your understanding of how connecting with people through their culture can add to your ability to make an impact.
Further reading: What to do in a gap year in Costa Rica
Or, while working in marine conservation in Greece and exploring the ruins around Giannitsochori during your free time, you may be struck by how an area’s past and present can both be important in its development. This will give you insight into how history, culture and the will to make an impact comes together and makes for successful sustainable development projects.
These opportunities will broaden your worldview and expose you to meaningful work that’ll add to your real-world experience. And this can go a long way in inspiring you with regards to the type of work you’d be passionate about contributing to in the future.
2) You’ll be preparing yourself for your studies
The theory and practical experience you’ll gain on any gap year program can make you an even better student if you’re planning to go to college.
Not only does real-world experience make what you learn more relevant, it also teaches you how to work under pressure, troubleshoot and meet deadlines.
By applying these new-found (or newly improved) skills during your studies, you’ll have more confidence when taking on tasks, be able to work more efficiently and be able to connect your theoretical knowledge to the real-life relevance of your work (which can act as major motivation).
This not only makes you more prepared for your studies, but it may also make your college experience even more meaningful and beneficial.
3) You’ll add to your employability
Working alongside people who have diverse backgrounds and cultures will teach you how to work as part of a team, while building on your cultural sensitivity and workplace etiquette.
Having these skills means that you’ll be building towards becoming the ideal employee in any workplace setting. And you’ll keep adding to this throughout your gap year program, and end up with a solid foundation when it comes to being professional.
In addition to gaining soft skills, one of the biggest advantages of taking a gap year is that it’ll increase your employability in measurable ways too. Many gap year abroad programs offer the chance to gain qualifications that’d impress any potential employer.
On a GVI gap year program, you’ll be able to secure a whole host of qualifications depending on the program you choose. These include:
- Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certifications
- Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) qualifications
- University of Richmond endorsed leadership certification.
These internationally recognised achievements can add to your clout in any job application.
4) You’ll find answers to some of your biggest questions
With plenty of opportunities to travel, interact and contribute to meaningful work, your time spent taking a gap year will give you tons of real-life experience.
Besides building on your worldly knowledge, this experience will give you a whole new sense of clarity when it comes to your future and the course you want to take once your gap year is complete.
It’ll add to your professional network, grow your pool of friends and open up your idea of what you can and can’t achieve – here’s a clue: it’s all up to you!
Looking back after you’ve completed your program, you’ll be able to see just how far you’ve come since asking yourself, “Should I take a gap year?” And, this will remind you of just how capable and courageous you are.
How to make taking a gap year the most meaningful experience
To make sure you benefit from all the advantages of taking a gap year and making an impact with it, pick opportunities that focus on community-led projects that add to global development goals.
And, why not get your friends to take our “Should I Take a Gap Year” quiz too? Who knows, you could end up planning a fun-filled gap year with them. Find the quiz online here.
Find out more about our global gap year programs that’ll stop you from asking, “Should I take a gap year?” and start you packing your bags instead!