Could a gap year improve your mental health before starting college? Would a gap year be a wise choice for your school-aged son or daughter? Choosing to take a year off is a matter of personal preference, but there are some benefits to this path. Let’s take a closer look at the mental health benefits of a gap year.
What Is a Gap Year?
A gap year is a year off of school between high school and college. The term is sometimes used to refer to a year off from college in general. Only 2.2% of American students take a year off before starting college, but gap years are much more common in other countries.
Students may choose to take a year off for many reasons. For some, a gap year gives them a chance to improve their scholarship and education options before starting school. Others use their gap year to narrow down their career and degree paths. Some students spend a year working to save money for school. Regardless of the reasoning, there are some mental health benefits to taking time off before college.
The Benefits of a Gap Year
Here are some ways gap years help mental health:
- Feeling less pressure. The transition from high school to college is stressful on its own. Taking a gap year gives a person time to process all the emotions that come with the transition so they feel less stressed when school starts.
- Feeling more prepared. Students who use a gap year to refine their career prospects, schools, degree paths, etc. may feel better prepared after taking a year off. Rather than testing the waters during the first year of school, students can enter college with a clear goal in mind.
- Refreshing knowledge for certain subjects. Students may use a gap year to re-learn information they struggled with in high school. College happens at a faster, more aggressive pace than high school, so it can feel even more overwhelming if the student is behind in a subject. A year or perhaps a semester off bridges the knowledge gap.
- Social development. Students who graduate young or early may not be as socially developed as their peers. A gap year provides time to mature and grow.
- Financial planning. Because college is expensive, some students do not feel prepared to enter college right away. They may use a gap year to save money, apply for more scholarships, and find other financial aid options. This reduces stress and prevents the need for student loans.
- After 12 years of school, some students just need a break. Take a year off to travel, explore, and make new memories. Then return to college with a new lease on life.
- Determining if college is the right path. Higher education is not the only path to a career. Taking a break to weigh all the decisions will ensure the student finds the right path for his or her goals.
Potential Downsides to Taking a Year off School
While there are many stress relief benefits for taking a gap year, it’s important to consider the downsides. For instance, a student who does not study during a gap year may have a difficult time remembering information at the beginning of the semester. A gap year full of relaxation may take away the drive and motivation needed for college. Gap years also put a student a year behind his or her peers. Consider all of the pros and cons before choosing the right path for you or your child.