How To Decide To Take A Gap Year

You’re sitting at your desk, your hands gripping your head and you can’t stop thinking,

“I can’t do this.”  Sound familiar? Then you may be considering taking a gap.

A gap is when you take time off from school, whether for a semester or more before continuing with schooling.  Here are few ways to help you weigh the options of taking a gap.

Will Taking A Gap Help You Figure Out Your Life’s Direction?

If you are a first year, this exploration can be done on campus, with guidance from professors in the fields you want to try out.  It’s always nice to explore and meet requirements for a major you are debating. However, some people may feel more comfortable exploring options off-campus and picking up again with a clear mind.

If you are a sophomore and up, it may be a little more difficult.  Since you have to declare second semester sophomore year, completely changing paths is very difficult. For this case, I would strongly recommend taking a gap year. You can work at non-profits or take classes at community colleges to figure out what you want to do.  Then you can come back and re-start where you left off.  


Are You Running Away From Campus?

If your motivation for taking a gap year is avoiding the campus culture or avoiding specific person(s), you may want to consider going abroad rather than taking a full gap.  Going abroad can give you the opportunity to continue your studies, get credit but not have to deal with the campus environment.  If there aren’t any opportunities to go abroad, consider studying domestically and then consider taking a gap.

If your school experience is being stifled by other people, you may want to consider going to your dean.  It’s unfair for you to feel as though you must be the one to leave if someone else made you uncomfortable.  

In general, if your motivation is social, you want to immerse yourself in another setting where you can thrive so that when you return you don’t fall back into the same cycle.


Is This Based On Religion/National Duty?

If you are in the situation where you have to take time off for a mission or to go to the army, taking a gap year may be necessary.  Some students take the gap prior to starting college.  Others start college first year, take the gap and then continue their sophomore year.  The final option is not taking a gap at all and completely.

Ultimately, this decision is yours.   Some people are thinking about their parents’ criticism (“If you don’t go now, you will never go”)  or social stigma (“Everyone goes to the army at 20, what makes you different?”).  You have to decide what will make you happy.

Regardless of your reason…

Talk to your class dean, the Counseling Center, a faculty/staff member, a friend, a loved one...anyone who you think has your best interest in mind.  Taking a gap is a huge step, but many people have done it.  You just have to figure out if it is right for you.