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5 Smart reasons to consider a gap year before college

The announcement last May that first daughter Malia Obama would take a gap year before starting college at Harvard in 2017 had many students and families taking a second look at options for delaying entry into college and using the extra time to explore potential interests and careers. As the new school year begins for many students and a gap year begins for some, here are five reasons you might consider a gap program as you plan your transition from high school to college—plus three things to consider before deferring.

Making the most of a gap year

Explore your interests. Often, students spend high school juggling schedules packed with college preparatory courses, sports and other extracurricular activities, and work and volunteer commitments. This means you may not have had time to holistically explore your interests as well as potential careers that align with them. A gap year that includes practical experience in a field that interests you can help you to focus on selecting a college major that fits your personality, interests, and strengths, saving you time and money once you get to campus.

Recharge your battery. After four years (or more!) of racing to complete homework, fitting in play practice, and balancing family and work commitments, a gap year offers time to take a breath and refresh before again entering a challenging academic world. This doesn’t mean you sleep in, play video games, or watch TV all day, but giving your brain a breather can help make the transition to college a fresh experience.

Travel the world. While not everyone is lucky enough to do so, enrolling in an organized gap year program abroad gives you the opportunity to mature and gain independence while exploring a new place with a language and culture different from your own. Think of it as study abroad, before even beginning college. Take advantage of the opportunity to expand your perspective and bring these insights with you when you start college next year.