Why Gap Years Are Beneficial For Struggling Students

By Amanda Keohane on March 9, 2016

Have you been feeling stuck — either emotionally or physically — these past few semesters? Do you feel overworked or like you just aren’t getting as much out of it as you once were?

Don’t worry, you are not alone! Most students struggle during their time at school for many different reasons, and there are ways to combat it. One way is to consider taking a gap year.


Taking a gap year is not something to be afraid of. In fact, when you look at the statistics, choosing to take a gap year will most likely be beneficial, and in more ways than one.

Many people seem afraid to take time off from school because they, or their parents, are worried that they will not return to school once they do. But studies have shown that 90 percent of students who take a break from school return within a year (Wall Street Journal). In fact, it has been found that taking a gap year either before or during school has numerous benefits for a student.

Here are just a few of the reasons that a gap year might be the best idea you’ve ever had.

It can lead to a more satisfying career.

According to an independent study done by Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson, a majority of the students who take a gap year report being satisfied with their job in the future.

Taking the time to be independent and experience this world can also cultivate a better sense of community and a more intimate understanding of those we interact with (gooverseas.com). It is extremely common for students to change their major upon returning from a break because their time away has helped them gain a better understanding of themselves and what they are passionate about.

Many students go into college without any idea of what they want to do with their lives and hope they find something along the way. But perhaps if these students took some time off to get out and gain a better understanding of self and the world, they would be able to determine this before diving headfirst into the fast-paced world of higher education.

It can help a student excel in school.

By taking some time off for a student to get out and check a few things off of their bucket list and really experience the world for the first time, it can lead to a more dedicated approach to school once they return. CIEE.org states that more students who took time off from school returned with a new sense of passion and drive for school.

It also allows students to feel more confident in their major or helps them discover something else they are passionate about and, therefore, means that going back to school will be for something they know they will want to do upon graduation.

It can help prevent students from feeling pressured.

I’m sure most students can identify with the feeling of being burnt out and worn thin at school. The work is ever growing and, no matter how much you do, there is still a pile of papers to write and tests to study for. At a certain point, it can make a person wonder, is it even worth it?

Too many times, the answer is yes, but you don’t have to feel this way. Taking a gap year can work as a sort of stress reliever. Spend some time focusing on you and what you want in life, not what your professors want from you. Take some time to really breathe and be happy before jumping back in.

Doing this can help give you a more positive attitude when returning to school and can prove to be a huge motivator. Think of a gap year as a sort of “mental refreshment.”

Photo by Amanda Keohane

And even more reasons …

Here are just a few more ways that a student can benefit from a taking a gap year.

  • Cultural exposure

  • Meet new people and friends

  • Take some time to prepare for and think about the future

  • Check a few things off of the bucket list — go on an adventure!

  • Gain a sense of independence and life skills

  • Improve your resume / become more marketable for internships

  • Spend time discovering who you are

People take gap years for all sorts of reasons, but what is important is that it is what you want to do. Don’t take a gap year because all your friends are doing it, but don’t stay in school for fear that you might let down others. Listen to your own intuition about what you should be doing.
Here are a few reasons that students take gap years.


If you feel like school is not the right place for you or that it is wearing you a bit too thin, then perhaps a gap year is just the right thing for you. And don’t worry, a gap year doesn’t have to be a six to 12 month period of living in your parents’ basement. It can be as structured or as rigid as you want and involve as much or as little adventure/travel/risk-taking as you are comfortable with.

It’s all about what you feel you will benefit from the most at that point in your life. And don’t worry about the money — there are always ways to make it work (more than you might think)!

For ideas of what to do during your gap year, click here.

For more information about gap year statistics and benefits, click here.

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