Five signs your student shouldn’t take a gap year

Gap years are an increasingly common—and economically viable—choice for many students. But they’re not for everyone. Two weeks ago, we explored six surprising benefits of taking a gap year before college. So what about the flip side?

There are a handful of reasons why a gap year might not be the best choice for your student. Here are five to think about:

1. It will cost too much money

Life costs money. And no matter how you slice it, a gap year, in most circumstances, will be more of an economic drain than gain. There are many creative and low-cost ways to make a gap year happen—and sometimes integrating a scholarship, stipend, paid internship, or job into the mix can ease the financial burden. But more than likely, a gap year will end up costing your family financially.

2. It will negatively impact your student’s school prospects

While a gap year has the potential to boost your student’s college prospects, that’s dependent on him or her choosing the right pursuits. Purposeful activities related to your student’s field of study—or activities that demonstrate maturity, character, and an array of interests—are always a plus. But a gap year spent without much purpose will be a net negative to college admissions departments.

3. Life circumstances are stacked against it

For some students, there may be family or personal circumstances that prevent them from taking a gap year. Maybe your student has a medical condition that requires close and ongoing attention. Or perhaps the health of a family member requires the student to remain closer to home base.

Alternatively, some students may be prone to homesickness or not be emotionally or spiritually equipped to be away from home for an extended period of time. Here, it’s important to consider your student’s maturity level and life circumstances before embarking on a gap year.

4. Your student will lose momentum

For some students, not going directly to college after high school increases the chance that they will never go at all. You as a parent know your child better than anybody else. If your student gets easily distracted and struggles with focus and follow-through, then perhaps a gap year is not a good fit.

5. Your student is already confident about college plans

It goes without saying that a gap year can be a great choice for students who have yet to land on a field of study or career path. So if your student already has a firm idea of what he or she wants to pursue, a gap year could do more harm than good by delaying progress.

Wrapping up

Looking through this list, it’s easy to think that a gap year doesn’t make sense. But even if a few of these negatives apply to your family’s situation, don’t necessarily let that discourage your student from considering a gap year. It’s all about weighing the pros and cons and making a purposeful decision. Good luck!

Content marketer, researcher, and public policy wonk by day. Away from the office, he's a polyglot geography nerd with a thing for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. So far, all 50 U.S. states and 44 countries have been checked off the list—and counting.

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