Should Students Take a Gap Year After High School?


The tradition of taking a gap year appeared in the middle of the 20th century in Great Britain. Young people entered the university, but before studying, they traveled for a year to learn about life. Later, this tradition has gained recognition in a variety of other states that encourage young adults to acquire more practical skills in the context of their education. Nowadays, many high school graduates do not strive to go straight to university and become “gappies,” considering the break as an opportunity to approach their choice of profession more consciously.

Psychology of Enrollees

Often, enrollees who have experienced such difficulties as passing difficult exams hardly find the strength to take responsibility in admission and determine their future life. As a rule, exhausted enrollees do not have the power to make serious decisions and follow suit of others, making their choice unconscious. There are two theories of behavioral patterns in such cases: Planned Behavior Theory (TPB) and Reasoned Action Theory (TRA) (Martin 568). According to these theories, if people evaluate the proposed behavior as positive (attitude), it leads to a higher intention (motivation), and they will probably do so (Martin 566). The same applies if they think that people in their immediate environment want them to act according to a certain pattern. A year gap provides an opportunity to avoid such consequences. The enrollee who has recovered from stress can take a balanced approach to determine the direction of their life more consciously.

Advantages and disadvantages

A gap year is an opportunity to travel, take part in volunteer programs, make new friends, broaden horizons, and establish business contacts. Undoubtedly, it lies at the heart of the concept of such a break. Also, the possibility of avoiding other unconscious pressure on the choice of your future profession and life in general is, by all means, a plus for a person. An extra year allows the graduate to learn to live independently, develop responsibility, acquire the habit of setting specific goals and achieving them on their own. This is an opportunity to face the first real difficulties and learn how to cope with them, and understand why time should be appreciated. Finally, the gap year provides adults with an opportunity to take a pause before making life-changing decisions, identify their major goals, and define their aptitudes.

However, this practice also has its drawbacks, which cast doubt on its application. Sometimes, after a gap year, people give up on the idea of going to university and getting higher education for a long time. And if in the future it is still needed, it will require much more strength. Student life with exams, lectures, and colloquia at 18 and 25 are completely different things. There is a need to prepare for the gap year no less seriously than for admission – psychologically and financially. Parental support will be required, as funding from educational institutions is usually not enough to gain full experience.

Final decision

Of course, the decision of whether to take a gap or not is a purely personal matter for everyone, but as we can see, there are fewer minuses from the “spent time” than pluses. The gap year is also noted in the enrollee’s resume and increases its value when entering the university; the skills and experience gained during this year, as a rule, carry weight for the admissions committee. Initiatives like gap year allow the students to gain extensive experience in both formal knowledge and soft skill development to have more chances to succeed later in life.


Martin, Andrew. “Should Students Have a Gap Year? Motivation and Performance Factors Relevant to Time Out After Completing School,” Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 102, no. 3, 2010, pp. 561-576.

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ChalkyPapers. "Should Students Take a Gap Year After High School?" August 24, 2023.