Many students take a gap year to focus on traveling, sports, and self-discovery. But is it worth it? Discover the pros and cons of taking a gap year.

College soccer players listening to coach on the bench during a game.

Taking a gap year after high school is becoming more and more popular, with many colleges now encouraging students to do so. Some proponents even argue that a gap year, or a year of service before starting college, should be mandatory for all students!

Despite the advantages of taking a gap year, many students don’t fully understand the concept of a gap year. You may believe it involves traveling aimlessly and wasting time — but that’s a common misconception.

What is a gap year?

A gap year is when you take a year off, typically between high school graduation and college. So instead of beginning college the fall after you finish high school, you’d start the following fall.

Gap years are meant to give students a break from academics. It’s usually a time to discover yourself and consider what kind of education and career you want to pursue.

A gap year can take many forms. For example, you could work a job, complete an internship, volunteer, or travel. You can do these activities independently or as part of a gap year program.

Why Do People Take Gap Years?

In one survey, the two most common reasons students gave for taking a gap year before college were to recover from academic burnout and to learn more about themselves.

A gap year not only gives you time to recharge and refocus but also allows you to learn more about yourself on your own terms.

Research on the benefits of a gap year has led schools like Harvard University, New York University, and MIT to encourage students to take one.

Many colleges even allow accepted applicants to defer their admission for a year so they can take a gap year.

Taking a Gap Year with IDA: Pros and Cons

Although many students can benefit from taking a gap year after high school, the path isn’t for everyone. Here are some gap year pros and cons to consider before making a decision.

✅ Pro: You’ll Enter College Feeling Refreshed and Refocused

The clarity earned by taking a gap year before college can positively affect your academic performance. Research shows that those who take a gap year are more likely to graduate in four or fewer years compared to the national average of six years.

The time spent reflecting and learning about potential paths can also help you make a more informed decision when picking a major.

❌ Con: You May Feel Isolated or Like You’re Falling Behind

Watching friends leave for college and go through similar experiences at the same time can increase FOMO. Likewise, knowing you’ll be going through these experiences a year after your peers might make you feel as though you’re falling behind.

While these feelings are understandable, remember that entering college one year late won’t ultimately harm your professional trajectory. You’ll get to experience college all the same when you eventually start school again.

✅ Pro: You’ll Build Important Skills

You can use your gap year to develop any number of key life skills. This could mean learning a language while living in another country, honing communication and leadership skills while being part of a group, and specifically with IDA, you can work holistically on your soccer development.

❌ Con: It May Be Harder to Transition Back to School

Spending your gap year idle or withdrawn from academic engagement could make your transition back to school tricky.

The best way to avoid this problem is to keep yourself engaged and challenged by material you find interesting. At IDA you can also take advantage of our multiple academic partners, for college credits and college prep courses.

✅ Pro: It Can Attract College Coaches and Future Employers

A productive gap year is a great time to engage in resume-building activities. Learning a skill, gaining soccer experience in a foreign league, studying a language, or spending months learning about a specific topic or country can all help your resume stand out.

A year spent abroad can also build skills that will impress potential employers.

✅ Pro: You Can Broaden Your Horizons

Traveling and living abroad for your gap year can be a transformative experience. Immersing yourself in a new culture, learning a language, and seeing the world from a different perspective can help you discover your passions and purpose.

Should You Take a Gap Year?

A gap year isn’t for everyone. Though popular, gap year programs and international travel can cost a pretty penny. It’s worth considering how a gap year could affect your finances before you decide whether to take one.

Other factors to consider include what kinds of activities you plan to do during your gap year. IDA with its focus on soccer gives you the structure to make a productive gap year

Ask yourself: What goals do you want to achieve before starting college? Do you think you have still room to improve as a player to be better ready for a college soccer carear?

Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine whether a gap year is the best course of action for you and your goals. But if you want to learn more how IDA can help you in this process, don’t hesitate to contact us.

The proof is in our players – Tyler Nyquist, from Bozeman, Montana

The IDA Player Experience integrates directly into the IDA Residential Academy Program where participants train, compete, and experience the day-to-day life of a full-time IDA student-athlete, creating a new standard for international camps.

Last year Tyler Nyquist, a solid midfielder from Montana Surf Soccer Club, decided to challenge himself and flew over to Valencia for the month of June. During that month, Tyler had the opportunity to train on a daily basis with our qualified coaching staff, to face local competition and to experience a totally different level, style of play and culture.

Recently we sat down with Tyler to review his experience of international camps and the reason why he decided to join IDA Valencia full-time.

How did the IDA Player Experience in June help you from a soccer development standpoint?

Overall, I think I improved every aspect of my game. 

I found it very noticeable when I went back in July to the US and competed in college camps and tournaments. I think even though it was just a month long, it helped accelerate my development.   

How would you describe the environment in IDA?

All the training sessions are high intensity, well structured, and lots of fun. I feel like I learn something new every time I step on the field, and the opportunity to improve every day is what I was looking for.

Off the pitch, we are like a big family. 

What were your expectations coming into the IDA Player Experience and how did you mentally/physically prepare leading up to the arrival date?  

I was expecting a faster speed of play, against players with excellent technique. I decided to be ready to keep my game simple, in order to be able to compete at that level

What has been your favorite moment of this experience so far? 

We played in a tournament at the UD Levante Facilities and we took 2nd place. I would say this is my favorite moment because I got to experience Spanish football for the first time – we had some good results and I felt great about my ability to compete at that level

What is the difference between the IDA Player Experience and other camps you have participated in the past?

The intensity of the training and schedule, the real games, the video footage for my highlight film – to name just a few. The whole experience was so different to what we are used to with summer camps and ID camps. Most camps these days are the same thing – show up, do some training, play some practice games with the same players. You can’t really compare the two. If you want the real deal, IDA is your best bet.”

Do you have any advice for players interested in experiencing IDA for the first time?

Not only are your football abilities going to improve, but you will also grow a lot as a person. I recommend the month-long experience because it is the perfect way to properly evaluate if it is the right thing for you.

What was the decisive factor that made you join IDA full-time after joining the Academy for the month of June?

I realized I would get more out of this than I would back home. A 9-month season was much more appealing to me than two 3-month seasons in the USA.

Having access to a pitch 24/7, gym and quality coaching staff, are critical for my development and to reach my goals as a player. Also, being able to meet lots of new people and seeing different cultures influenced the decision.

IDA player experience is available multiple times throughout the year, for players 15-20 yrs old from all over the world. Experience international camps today! You can find all dates at https://internationalda.com/events/ or you can schedule a call with our advisor, Georgios Charkoutsakis, by filling out the form below.



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