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York College Supports Students Who Decide to Take a Gap Year

July 25, 2023
Khamelia on campus

Students have many reasons for taking a break between high school and college and even during college―to work, travel, or recharge mentally. York College of Pennsylvania strives to keep students engaged in the college experience throughout that time.

Taking a gap year before attending college or during college has become an increasingly popular choice for students everywhere. Those students might pursue personal interests, gain work experience, and explore the world before committing or recommitting to their college journey.

The gap-year motivation

There are various reasons that students choose to take a gap year, says Brian Hazlett, Vice President for Enrollment Management at York College of Pennsylvania.

First, he says, some students want to improve their financial situation. By working during this period, they can save money for tuition, living expenses, or travel costs. It provides an opportunity to become financially independent or reduce their reliance on student loans.

Second, students might yearn to explore the world and experience personal growth. A gap year can provide students with the chance to travel, explore cultures, and broaden their perspectives. They might participate in programs focused on international volunteerism, language immersion, or cultural exchange. Experiencing new environments and diverse communities can enhance their understanding of the world and foster personal growth.

Since the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hazlett has seen and expects to continue to see an uptick in students seeking a mental health break or a reset year. After completing high school, students might feel mentally and emotionally exhausted from a demanding academic schedule and extracurricular activities. Taking a gap year allows them to recharge, rejuvenate, and prevent burnout before embarking on the rigorous challenges of college.

To gap or not to gap

Khamelia Henderson ’23, who majored in Professional Writing, decided to take a gap year in 2021 for financial reasons. She needed to work and save money to cover tuition expenses. During that time, she served in various retail positions, gaining valuable experience while earning a steady income.

“I enjoyed the break from classes and homework,” she says. “Like many students, I went straight into college from high school, so I didn't get to experience working without the burden of classes. I was able to work full-time, which meant a bigger paycheck, so that was nice.”

Taking a gap year has advantages and disadvantages. The benefits often include securing a better financial standing, personal growth, and increased maturity, and developing valuable life skills through work. That year off can help students gain a clearer sense of their career goals and aspirations.

Maintaining academic momentum when taking a gap year during college might be the biggest struggle for students, but it is crucial for easing the transition back to college. Students also should consider financial implications, as scholarships or financial aid packages might need to be re-evaluated. With proper planning and communication, these challenges can be managed, Hazlett says.

Finding support at York College

York College recognizes the value of a gap year and supports students who decide to take this alternative path, according to Hazlett. The College allows students to defer their enrollment for up to a year with a justifiable reason. During the gap year, York College maintains lines of communication with students, keeping them informed about events and ensuring that they feel connected to the school. Advisors and professors provide guidance and assistance to current students upon their return and to high school graduates who take the break, helping them navigate the re-enrollment process and get back on track.

For students considering a gap year, Henderson suggests that they reflect on personal circumstances and consider their ability to transition from full-time work back to academics. If current students are concerned about the potential challenges of returning to college, Henderson suggests they consider part-time enrollment to strike a balance between work and study.

Taking a gap year offers students the chance to gain valuable experiences, reassess their goals, and ready themselves for higher education. With the flexibility and guidance available, students can confidently pursue a gap year knowing they will be welcomed at York College when they are ready to continue their educational journey.