5 ways to make the most of your gap year
What is a Gap Year?
The American Gap Association (AGA), a non-profit organization for gap years, defines it as “an experiential semester or year ‘on,’ typically taken between high school and college, in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness."
A gap year is usually a one year break from study or work taken by someone to pursue other interests. A gap year is mostly taken by students between high school and college to pursue something that supplements their regular line of study, or something that is completely different from it. A gap year is also known by other names like "bridge-year", "year-off" or "prep-year".
History of the Gap Year
The concept of gap year started around 1960s. After World War II, the young men in Britain at age 18 were compulsorily sent for two years of National Service in a branch of the armed forces. It was seen as a period that accelerated “growing up”. Some also believe that the idea of taking a gap year originated during the 17th century, when the sons of aristocrats used to travel around Europe as a part of their 'Grand Tour' in order to refine their education. In the United States, the gap year idea was promoted by Cornelius H. Bull in 1980s to allow students more time to grow as a person.Get more details about the history of gap year here.
Why Take a Gap Year?
All stats taken from yearoutgroup.org
There are plenty of reasons to take a gap year. Students usually prefer to travel to different place during their gap year which helps them meet new people, learn about new cultures and even new languages. Traveling also helps students learn to cope in an unfamiliar environment. If you’d like to travel for your gap year but don’t think you can afford it, try looking for volunteer programs and other work options to help you fund your expenses throughout the year. This will also add up to your CV and help you get a good job when you graduate.
- According to study abroad organization CIEE, Harvard College has seen a 33% increase in the number of their incoming students taking gap years
- 88% students report that their gap year had significantly added to their employability - (Milkround graduate recruitment Gap Year survey)
- 60% said the experience either set them on their current academic path or confirmed their choice of academic major
- Women are more likely than men to have taken a gap year — 29.98 percent of women have taken a gap year compared to 21.05 percent of men 
Benefits of Taking a Gap Year
According to Bustle approximately 200,000 students take gap for a year in the UK. The gap year is also gaining popularity in the United States. A number of American colleges, including Harvard, are encouraging students to take gap years. Malia Obama, elder daughter of the former US President Barack Obama also took a gap year before attending Harvard in 2017. 
- Gap year can be beneficial to students who are lacking direction and want some time to sort out what to do with their lives
- Students who took a gap year before college admits that it was a positive and life-changing experiences.
- Gap year students who have gained valuable skills and perspectives go on to be successful in the future.
- Taking up challenging tasks during a gap year has helped students push their comfort zones and understand what they're capable of
- Field experience and cross-cultural understanding set gap year students ahead of other students
- Students also find that they adapt to college life better since they have developed ‘soft skills’ that help in communication, teamwork, and adaptability.
Disadvantages of Taking a Gap Year
Taking a year off also comes with its own set of disadvantages, so ensure that you are giving it enough thought. Despite taking a year off, it can happen that you may simply find that you didn’t get the experience you were hoping for. Some of the major challenges that you might face while taking a gap year are:
- Some institutions do not look favorably upon drop year students and might not consider gap year students for admission
- You’ll be a year behind everyone who graduated high school/secondary school with you
- Taking a year off to travel can cost you a lot of money which you need to arrange before you head off somewhere or else you need to look for a job to pay your bills.
Funding your Gap Year
If you want to take a gap year after high school, make sure you've enough money to fund your expenses for the entire year, especially if you plan to travel. The best way to fund your gap year is to start saving money beforehand or to ask your parents/relatives/friends to help you with the funding. If you haven't saved enough, you'll have to look for a job, internship or volunteer for a cause to earn money. You can also do fundraising for your gap year expenses. Some colleges also offer course credit to students who take gap years. Here is a list of such colleges in the US as per the Gap Year Association :
University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487, USA
Northern Arizona University
S San Francisco St, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA
Missouri State University
901 S National Ave, Springfield, MO 65897, USA
New Haven, CT 06520, USA
Boston, MA 02215, USA
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
University of Denver
2199 S University Blvd, Denver, CO 80208, USA
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
California State University
401 Golden Shore, Long Beach, CA 90802, USA
915 E Market Ave, Searcy, AR 72149, USA
Top Gap Year Scholarships
CIEE Gap Year Scholarships
CIEE is offering $100,000 gap year grants this year. To apply, students must have a GPA of at least a 3.0.
Fall departures – apply by April 30th
Spring departures – apply by October 1st
Go Overseas Scholarships
Go Overseas gives out thousands of dollars worth of gap year scholarships to American and European students.
The Ferguson Trust Awards
Provides 233 grants of £300 annually to students going on a gap year through an organization. Grants are awarded on a first come, first serve basis.
Peter Kirk European Travel Scholarships Foundation
10 awards of £2000 is given every year for students spending anytime between 6 weeks and 3 months in Europe in a country of their choice.
Travel Access Project
It gives grants for gap year travel. If you’re planning an independent gap year, this organization may provide up to $3000. 
5 Activities to make the most of your Gap Year
1. Learning a foreign language
Make use of your gap year to learn a new language or two. This will add value to your CV and you can also utilize your knowledge to start giving out language classes once you're back to college or work as a freelance translator.
One of the noblest things you can probably do in your gap year is to teach people. You can meet a lot of new people and exchange ideas and opinions during the classes.
3. Volunteering for a cause
Make use of your gap year to volunteer for a social cause. You can work for the poor and the needy or those who are in dire need of medical assistance or you can even work for animals.
You can try interning in different countries throughout your gap year, internships, unlike full time jobs will leave you with enough time to travel and have fun. These internships will also help you to bag a job after graduation much easily.
5. Getting an actual job
You can directly try to get a full time job instead of working as an intern. Needless to say, your job experience will have a much bigger value than your internship. However, with a full time job in hand, you'll be missing out on a lot of other activities, so think if you're ready to sacrifice your weekdays to get a job experience.
Taking a Gap Year-Current Scenario
According to a recent survey, here are the top 10 gap year destinations preferred by students :
4. New Zealand
Many students consider taking a gap year between high school and college to see the world, gain new experiences or earn some money. But, is a gap really as helpful as it sounds or should one dismiss the idea of taking a gap year? Arvin Vohra, a District of Columbia-based education consultant and author of "Lies, Damned Lies, and College Admissions" says "A gap year is like a college – you can waste it on lazy drunkenness or use it for something useful." 
A well planned gap year will provide you with much more than any classroom ever can. Although there's a lot to learn in the classroom, the only time we really understand what is going on in the real world is when we put it into practice. So plan ahead of time and track your progress to make the most of your gap year.