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Let’s Talk About All of the Advantages of a Gap Year (Including Intercultural Competency)

My gap year plans came to a halt in high school due to my parents concern about my safety and the minimal guidance I received from my high school counselor.  I eventually had the opportunity to study abroad during my junior year of college and this experience directed me toward my purpose of becoming an independent educational consultant. 

I still wish I had the chance to discover my purpose sooner and not when I was over halfway through my college career!

The value of being interculturally competent continues to increase as more cultures become more accessible to one another. As a result, intercultural competency is highly valued by most organizations and businesses.

One who is interculturally competent has advantages over others who have not developed this skill set. Diverse and well-paying job opportunities, global friendships, and travel opportunities are among these advantages!

One of the most comprehensive ways to become interculturally competent is to be an active participant in a completely different culture. While students, like yourself, can take courses about intercultural competency, nothing beats actively living in a new culture where every day you are immersed in a brand new way of living and seeing your surroundings.

Taking a gap year allows you to actively acquire intercultural competency.

A gap year is an intentional semester or year typically taken between high school and college that focuses on structured experiential learning and expanding one’s comfort zone. 

From the most significant outcomes surveyed by the Gap Year Association, students reported that their gap year experience provided them:

  • time for personal reflection they otherwise wouldn’t have had,
  • development as a person and maturity, 
  • increased self-confidence and communication skills, and 
  • the ability to interact with people from different backgrounds.  

Intercultural competency is not the only benefit of taking a gap year.

90% students return from gap year programs and go directly to college the following year.

Research shows the benefits of taking a gap year also include increasing college graduation rates, improving GPA, increasing participation in campus activities, and overall career satisfaction.  

It is nearly impossible to find a gap year alum who regretted taking a gap year.

Higher education institutions, including prestigious ones, have also been noticing the positive impact a gap year can have on you, as a student, and ultimately, their university community.  Over 150 institutions offer a deferral process to allow students to apply and be accepted to their university, take a gap year, and then return the following year at their institution.  In addition, some institutions are highly encouraging first year students to first take a gap year by offering specific scholarships and incentive programs.  

Harvard University recommends taking a gap year in its acceptance letter. Some universities even provide scholarships to students to participate in their own gap year programs. Numerous colleges support taking a gap year.  

Joe O’Shea, author of Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs and Associate Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Florida State University describes the many advantages of taking a gap year and how universities are noticing these advantages.

Check out the video below to learn more.

The Gap Year Movement

Our most recent pandemic has also increased awareness of students taking gap years due to the uncertainty of college.  Even though the term ‘gap year’ has been brought to the spotlight in more recent years, students have been taking gap years for quite some time. 

The Gap Year Association states taking a gap year has been more common outside of the U.S. in countries such as the United Kingdom, other European countries, and Australia, however, U.S. students and institutions are realizing more about the importance of making time for experiential learning and growth before starting college. 

The Gap Year Movement continues to build upon its momentum here in the U.S. but there is still work to be done to increase awareness about the advantages of taking a gap year.  The majority of U.S. students who are college bound plan to go straight to college after high school and are unaware of what a gap year can offer.  

The increased intercultural competency skills and the additional advantages gained from taking a gap year are what make the Gap Year Movement a major social change maker.