It’s that time of year: seniors are starting to apply for universities, deciding on programs, getting conditional offers, and planning for life after AISB.

But something that more and more students are considering is actually taking a break from school. In fact, five out of last year’s 75 graduates decided to take a gap year–and it seems like a higher percentage of this year’s grads will choose to do the same. Read on to see if this might be an option worth considering.

What to Do During a Gap Year

Gap years are usually taken right after high school–typically, to do educational or development activities. This tradition began in post-war Britain and was believed that giving young people the chance to explore and travel would help them understand different perspectives and cultures and “help world peace.” While gap years are beginning to gain popularity in America, Canada, and Australia, they are still mostly known and accepted in Europe.

Some of the most common ideas for a gap year are volunteering, taking an internship, backpacking around the world, or working an entry-level job. Some ideas to get you dreaming: volunteering with the EcoTurtle Project in Greece, the Marine Conservation Projects in Thailand, or working with Elephants in Namibia. For a more educational experience you could volunteer with kids in South Africa, coach football in Brazil, or work in the Australian outback at a farm.

The Benefits of Taking this Break

Taking a gap year means getting to discover who you are beyond just a student. Especially if you aren’t sure about which path to take after high school, this extra time will let you contemplate the options.

“In the past In the past I have worked with students who have done really awesome things – like traveling through Australia and New Zealand working on farms and another student who worked in a theater company for a year before going on to study theater at university.” – AISB Counselor Lindsay Kehl

Kehl says that these types of experiences offer a great chance for exploration and self-discovery. “A gap year gives a student time to think ‘what do I want?’ or ‘what do I like to do?’ In that way, it’s such a healthy thing that someone can do for themselves – give themselves the gift of time.”

AISB Class of 2019 Graduate Caolan O. is currently on a gap year. He’s been working and says it’s actually helped to have work experience on his college applications. “The gap year is the reason I got into my preferred university,” he says.

Some Possible Obstacles to Consider

Gap years are not for everybody. Before making your decision, you have to carefully plan out what you want to do. Is your goal becoming financially independent? Do you want to acquire experience in certain domains? What specific steps are you going to take to get there?

It’s important that you research beforehand if you think a gap year would fit for you. Ideally, you want to make a rough timeline of the year, including what you’re going to do, where, and for how long. Kehl advises students to focus on the planning aspect of the gap year, stating how important it is for students to ask themselves, “What might [my] goals for the year be? What do [I] want to accomplish?”

You not only need to be a planner, but also someone who is relatively savvy with money (or are lucky enough to have their parents pay for everything). While it really depends on the individual, estimates that most people need at least 35EU a day.

And lastly, consider the possibility of losing momentum after school. After not studying and sitting in a classroom for a year, it may be a big surprise and struggle to get back into the flow of this. (Although, Gap Year Association statistics show that “90 percent of students who took a gap year returned to college within a year.”

Related Article: AISB Alumni Share Insight and Advice

Making the Decision

If you aren’t sure, talk to people who have taken a gap year. Ask them about their experience, whether they found it helpful, and any advice they would offer. This way, you’ll get to have a much more personalized conversation rather than reading reviews online.

Senior Umay E. is excited for her gap year to begin and for a new chapter in her life to start, but says, “It’s also a bit frustrating seeing all your friends knowing exactly where they are going and what they will do, while your future is a little more uncertain.”

Remember that a gap year doesn’t necessarily need to start right after high school, or be a bridge from high school to college. Many students take a year off of university, and Harvard even reports that their students who had taken a year off “found the experience so valuable that they would advise all Harvard students to consider it.”

If you’re on the fence about what to do after graduation, consider taking a year off from school. This experience may give you a chance to discover new passions and connections that may be useful in the future. Besides, having a full year to yourself after DP sounds much more exciting than jumping directly to a rigorous college program (are we right?).

Tell us: Are you considering a gap year? Start the conversation below.