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10 Reasons Why You Should Consider a Gap Year Before College

By Vonda J. Sines

You spent weeks completing college applications. Maybe you've already received an acceptance letter or two. But something just doesn't feel right about heading off to college in the fall. Now that your parents have agreed to hear you out, here are 10 reasons why a gap year might be a good idea.

1. A Gap Year Provides Focus

While your family might expect you to go directly to a college or university after high school, you might not be focused enough yet to be successful. Another way to put it is that you may lack the maturity to succeed a college right now. A well-planned and structured gap year gives you a chance to finish growing up, become your own person, and figure out who that person is.

2. You'll Make New Friends

Are you rethinking the pact you made with your six best friends to go to the same college? Or is everybody heading to different schools? A gap year is an ideal way to meet new people.

3. You Can Earn Money for School

Shelling out $30,000 a year can be impossible, especially when most of it is in loans. Maybe one of your parents has lost a job or you know you won't get enough financial aid. Stash a lot of the cash you earn during a gap year and you'll need to take out fewer loans when you finally go to college.

4. Try Volunteering

Lattitude Global Learning asked 2,000 individuals aged 15 to 24 why they would consider volunteering overseas during a gap year. Nearly one out of five called it a great way to learn a different culture. Whether volunteering helps you learn a new language, provides assistance to the less fortunate, or opens doors to another culture, it's one of the most popular options for a gap year.

5. Go on an Adventure

This might be your chance to do something completely off the beaten path. Maybe you're an actor and you have a chance to be part of a traveling performance group. Maybe you want to go camping for 6 months in the U.S. National Parks. These sorts of adventures may be more difficult once you're saddled with college debt, you've started a career, or you've got a family.

6. Appease the Travel Bug

Travel opportunities during a gap year are nearly endless. Provided you structure the travel, you might be able to offset some of the cost by working or bartering. Whether you explore the Amazon rain forest or a library in Rome, as the saying goes, you're only young once.

7. Remedy Academic Deficiencies

According to a report by the American Enterprise Institute, only 53 percent of students entering 4-year colleges in the U.S. graduated within six years. Many high school students aren't academically prepared for college. A gap year could be used to increase your qualifications for college admission and to help you develop the skills to succeed once there.

8. Find the Work You Like

An 18-year-old planning to be a vet was eternally grateful she spent half her gap year on a working farm. When she couldn't even stand to watch a calf being born, she began looking at other options. The following year, she enrolled in a horticulture program.

9. It Might be the Cheapest Alternative

If you'll have to pay to travel, work or study, put the cost into perspective. In the long run, a gap year might actually save money. If you lack motivation to go to college, you're likely to have difficulty choosing a major. You may be at higher risk of dropping out and wasting money on tuition.

10. Some Colleges Consider it a Plus

One of the reasons gap years were slow to catch on in the U.S. was the fear that colleges would look down on them. That's not the case. Princeton actually has a Bridge Year Program that encourages admitted students "to spend a year of public service abroad, with University support, before their freshman year." Some colleges now consider a gap year a plus, much like completing Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

Despite long-standing fears that if you take time off, you'll never make it to college, these 10 reasons make taking a gap year a smart move for some high school grads.

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