Get Real on Gap Years: How to Make the Most of a Postgraduate Break


What happens when a recent high school graduate decides to delay their college start by a year? This is called a gap year, and it’s a time ripe with possibilities unique to each individual student. Young graduates opt for a gap year to broaden their awareness and hone their aspirations through a year or semester of experiential learning outside of a classroom or institution.

After deciding to take a gap year, a graduate’s decisions are wide open! They are now tasked with making the most of this postgraduate year. How can new grads continue to learn through their gap year, and what are the lasting benefits of this intentional pause in classroom learning?

Maintaining intention during a gap year

To make the most of a gap year, students should look at it less as time off from school and more as an interim where their time is redirected but still focused on learning—in different ways.  A gap year isn’t just an opportunity to backpack a foreign country (though this is certainly an opportunity to learn new cultures), volunteer, or intern. It’s time to allow your brain to work in different ways, rest after a stressful period, and explore other interests, and because this break is intentional it’s important to set clear goals and timelines for your gap year. There are opportunities to learn every day. Embrace this during your gap year experiences—colleges and future employers will be eager to learn how you used your time to grow personally and impact our global community.

Supporting a purposeful gap year with adequate planning

After graduation, high school students are usually gunning to charge into the world. With so many opportunities for new knowledge and experiences, who can blame them? Without the proper structure, however, a gap year can quickly and easily run off course and lose the clarity and purpose it is supposed to provide to the young adult.

Soon-to-be graduates should work with their parents to map out a gap year that is the right mix of guidance and independence. If the student is moving out of the family home for their gap year, they need an awareness of the responsibilities they will face: Where will they work and how many hours are they expected to work if they are in a postgrad program? What expenses will they be responsible for? These are just a few examples of the questions that should be answered before the countdown to a gap year commences.

Some of the preparation should look beyond the gap year, too, so that the graduate’s overall goals remain clear and in focus. Even though a gap year means delaying a student’s start to postsecondary education, college admissions should remain a priority, if that is where the student wants to end up. In many cases, as the admissions process (particularly for select universities) becomes more and more competitive, using a gap year to ride out a waitlist or bulk up an application with internships or experiences works out in a student’s favor.

Gap years bring lasting benefits to young scholars

Gap years are not the result of a lack of surety or prospects—they are part of a focused plan. With the right preparation and mindset, a gap year can give students the time for relaxation it's known for plus so much more.

Taking a gap year can benefit a recent graduate by:

Providing clarity to their professional and academic aspirations. Rather than burning through college courses with expensive price tags, students can use this time to better grasp what they are interested in academically and professionally.

Allowing time to become more competitive in the university space. Scholars who are determined to be admitted to highly selective schools can use this time to improve their GPA, add robust courses to their resume, and delve into more college preparation.

Creating opportunities for network expansion. Whether through a postgraduate program, overseas studying, an internship, or a new job, gap year participants will connect with people that may offer valuable relationships and support in the future.

Expanding on experiential learning to further develop a student’s skills, maturity, and awareness. In an experiential learning curriculum, students are challenged to grow their knowledge and understanding during and after a defined experience. As graduates learn during a gap year, this is how the majority of learning happens in the real world, too.

Use the gap year to your advantage. The time after high school does not have to be all work and no play, but it shouldn’t be the reverse either. As a young adult, dedicating time to getting out of your comfort zone, trying—and sometimes failing—in many experiences, and continuing to learn from others is crucial.

If grade school years lay the foundation or your success, think of the gap year as the ground floor. With this solid framework, the sky's the limit in your collegiate future and beyond.

Keep learning during your gap year

A postgraduate program, such as the one we offer, can provide the necessary structure to keep a gap year purposeful. This program offers recent high school graduates competitive semester and year-long academic opportunities tailored to their unique interests and continuing education goals. Our highly flexible and customizable program is built for students who wish to distinguish themselves academically, cultivate and discover their passions, or acquire comprehensive tools to better prepare for the transition to higher education.

Our Postgraduate Program offers college-level, Honors, and AP courses to keep participants engaged as they work, travel, and otherwise expand their horizons. With a program like this, graduates can keep their learning muscles in shape while straddling the worlds of K-12 school and higher education. 

Are you ready to talk about how to make your gap year work for you? Get in touch with us now to get started.