Taking a gap year is becoming an increasingly popular option for high school graduates who want to take a break before starting college. But can you take a gap year while still in high school? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about taking a gap year in high school.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: It is possible to take a gap year during high school, but options are more limited than a post-graduation gap year. You’ll need approval from your school and parents.

What Is a Gap Year?

A gap year refers to a period of time when students take a break from formal education to pursue other experiences before continuing their studies. It is typically taken between high school and college, although some students may choose to take a gap year during their college years as well.

During this time, students have the opportunity to explore their interests, gain real-world experience, and grow personally and intellectually.

A break from formal education

A gap year offers students a chance to step away from the traditional classroom setting and explore alternative forms of learning. It allows them to take a temporary break from the demands of structured academics and discover new areas of interest.

This break can be refreshing and rejuvenating, providing students with a renewed sense of motivation and passion when they eventually return to their studies.

Typically taken between high school and college

The most common time to take a gap year is after completing high school but before starting college. This transitional period allows students to take a breather before diving into their higher education journey.

It gives them time to reflect on their goals, explore different career paths, and gain valuable life experiences before committing to a specific academic path.

Used for travel, work, volunteering, or personal growth

During a gap year, students have the freedom to pursue a wide range of activities. Many choose to travel and explore different cultures, broadening their horizons and gaining a global perspective. Others may opt to work or engage in volunteer projects, gaining valuable skills and contributing to their communities.

Some students may also use this time for personal growth, focusing on self-reflection, building resilience, and developing a deeper understanding of themselves.

It is important to note that while a gap year can offer numerous benefits, it is not suitable for everyone. It requires careful planning, consideration of financial implications, and a clear understanding of personal goals.

Students and their families should thoroughly research and weigh the pros and cons before deciding if a gap year is the right choice for them.

Benefits of Taking a Gap Year

A gap year is a period of time, typically taken after high school or before starting college, where students take a break from their academic pursuits to explore other avenues. While it is more commonly associated with college students, taking a gap year in high school can also have numerous benefits.

Here are some of the key advantages of taking a gap year:

1. Gain Life Experience

Taking a gap year in high school provides students with the opportunity to gain valuable life experience. By stepping outside the traditional classroom setting, students can engage in real-world experiences that can help them grow personally and develop important life skills.

Whether it’s volunteering abroad, interning at a local business, or traveling to different countries, these experiences can broaden their horizons and provide a deeper understanding of the world around them.

2. Explore Interests

A gap year allows high school students to explore their interests and passions outside of the academic curriculum. It gives them the freedom to pursue hobbies, sports, or other activities they may not have had time for during their regular school schedule.

This exploration can help them discover new talents, develop new skills, and gain a clearer sense of their future goals and aspirations.

3. Improve College Readiness

One of the biggest advantages of taking a gap year in high school is the opportunity to improve college readiness. During this time, students can focus on preparing for the challenges of college, such as developing study skills, researching potential majors, and even taking college-level courses.

This can give them a head start and make the transition to college smoother and more successful.

4. Recharge from Academic Burnout

High school can be a demanding and stressful time for students. Taking a gap year can provide a much-needed break and help students recharge from academic burnout. It allows them to take a step back, relax, and refocus their energy before embarking on their next academic journey.

This break can also prevent burnout in college and contribute to a more positive and fulfilling educational experience.

Challenges of a High School Gap Year

While taking a gap year can be an exciting opportunity for personal growth and exploration, there are several challenges that high school students may face when considering this option.

May delay high school graduation

One of the main challenges of taking a gap year in high school is that it may delay graduation. High school students who choose to take a gap year will typically need to complete their remaining credits and requirements upon their return.

This means that they may graduate later than their peers, which can have implications for future plans and timelines.

Limited options compared to post-grad gap year

Compared to post-graduation gap years, high school students may have limited options for how they spend their time during their gap year. Many gap year programs and opportunities are designed for college-aged students, making it more challenging for high school students to find suitable options that align with their interests and goals.

Need school district approval

In order to take a gap year in high school, students typically need to seek approval from their school district. This process can involve submitting a formal request, providing a detailed plan for how the gap year will be spent, and obtaining the necessary signatures and approvals from school administrators and parents.

The approval process can be time-consuming and may not always guarantee a positive outcome.

College admissions may be impacted

Another challenge of taking a gap year in high school is the potential impact on college admissions. While some colleges and universities may view a well-structured gap year as a valuable experience, others may have concerns about the interruption in formal education.

It is important for students to carefully consider how a gap year may be perceived by their desired colleges and make informed decisions accordingly.

Missing out on high school milestones

Lastly, taking a gap year in high school can mean missing out on important milestones and experiences that are typically associated with the final year of high school. This may include prom, graduation ceremonies, senior trips, and other memorable events.

Students should carefully weigh the potential benefits of a gap year against the experiences they may miss during their final year of high school.

How to Take a Gap Year in High School

Get approval from your school

If you’re considering taking a gap year during high school, the first step is to get approval from your school. Each school has its own policies regarding gap years, so it’s important to approach your guidance counselor or school administration to discuss your plans.

They will be able to provide you with information on the school’s requirements and any necessary paperwork that needs to be completed.

Discuss impact on graduation timeline

Before finalizing your decision, it’s crucial to have a conversation with your guidance counselor or academic advisor about the impact a gap year will have on your graduation timeline. They can help you navigate any potential challenges and ensure that you have a clear understanding of how your gap year will affect your academic progress.

Research gap year program options

Once you have received approval from your school and have a clear understanding of the impact on your graduation timeline, it’s time to start researching gap year program options. There are numerous organizations and programs that offer structured gap year experiences for high school students.

Take the time to explore different programs, read reviews, and consider factors such as cost, location, and the activities offered.

Make a plan for your gap year

After selecting a gap year program, it’s important to create a plan for your time off. This plan should include setting goals for your gap year, outlining the activities and experiences you want to pursue, and considering any logistical details such as travel arrangements or accommodation.

Having a well-thought-out plan will help you make the most of your gap year and ensure that you are prepared for the journey ahead.

Consider pros and cons for your situation

Before making a final decision, take the time to carefully consider the pros and cons of taking a gap year in your specific situation. Think about how a gap year will impact your personal and academic goals, as well as any potential challenges you may face.

It’s also important to discuss your decision with your parents or guardians, as they may offer valuable insights and support.

Taking a gap year in high school can be a transformative and enriching experience. It allows you to step out of your comfort zone, gain new perspectives, and develop valuable life skills. However, it’s essential to approach the decision with careful consideration and planning to ensure that it aligns with your personal and academic goals.

Alternative Options to a Full Gap Year

While taking a full gap year in high school may not be feasible for everyone, there are several alternative options that can provide similar benefits. These alternatives allow students to explore new experiences, gain valuable skills, and enhance their personal growth without taking a full year off from their studies.

Summer or Semester Study Abroad

One alternative option to a full gap year is to participate in a summer or semester study abroad program. This allows students to immerse themselves in a different culture, learn a new language, and gain a global perspective.

Whether it’s spending a summer in Europe, studying marine biology in Australia, or learning about ancient civilizations in South America, studying abroad can be a transformative experience. Websites like GoAbroad and StudyAbroad.com offer a wide range of programs to choose from.

Part-time Online School

Another option for high school students considering a gap year is to enroll in a part-time online school. This allows students to continue their education while also having the flexibility to pursue other interests or activities.

Online schools offer a wide range of courses and curriculum options, allowing students to tailor their education to their individual interests and goals. Websites like K12 and Connections Academy provide online education programs for high school students.

Take a Leave of Absence for a Semester

If a full gap year is not possible, high school students can consider taking a leave of absence for a semester. This allows them to take a break from their regular studies and explore other interests or opportunities.

During this time, students can pursue internships, community service projects, or even travel experiences. Schools often have specific policies and procedures in place for taking a leave of absence, so it’s important to consult with a school counselor or administrator to ensure compliance with academic requirements.

Short-term Internship or Program

Another option for high school students considering a gap year is to participate in a short-term internship or program. This could involve working with a local business or organization, volunteering in a community project, or participating in a specialized program related to their interests.

These experiences can provide valuable hands-on learning opportunities, help students develop important skills, and provide insight into potential career paths. Websites like Internships.com and Go Overseas offer resources for finding internships and programs suitable for high school students.

Remember, while a full gap year may not be possible for everyone, there are alternative options available that can still provide valuable experiences and personal growth. Whether it’s studying abroad, enrolling in an online school, taking a leave of absence, or participating in a short-term internship, these alternatives can help high school students explore their passions, gain new perspectives, and prepare for their future endeavors.


While less common than a post-graduation gap year, taking time off during high school may be an option if you get approval from your school. Thorough planning is essential to make sure a high school gap year aligns with your academic goals.

Discuss pros, cons and alternatives with your family to decide if a gap year is right for you.

Similar Posts