9 Financially Savvy Moves To Make in a Gap Year Before College

It’s high school graduation season and while many students head directly to college after graduating from high school, a smaller group chose to make financially savvy moves like taking a gap year.

While gap years are considered common practice for new high school graduates in many countries abroad, more and more students and colleges in the United States are seeing the benefits of taking a gap year between high school and college. Gap years are now widely recognized as an effective way for young people to grow, learn, and better prepare themselves financially for higher education and beyond.

What Is a Gap Year?

The Gap Year Association defines this educational interlude as “a semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or postsecondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.” Some students elect to take a gap year in the middle of pursuing a degree.

Typically, students use this time to travel, work or volunteer and figure out what they want to study when they do eventually go to college, experts say. A gap year from college is also a great time to gain a better understanding of your finances. 

What Are the Benefits of Taking a Gap Year?

Some parents may look down on the idea of a gap year, fearing that their child won’t get “back on track” with their studies or post-grad life. But there are many benefits associated with taking a gap year.

  • Time to rest and recharge. After many years of academic pressure, some students need a year off to recover from burnout before they start their next big endeavor.
  • Room for discovery. Students who aren’t sure what path they want to take next may find that taking a gap year gives them the opportunity to discover or deepen their interests and formulate next steps.
  • Can explore passions. If a person knows they’re interested in a certain industry or job role, they can spend some time interning, pursuing a fellowship, or researching that career path before they pursue a degree toward that job.
  • Develops independence. A gap year can provide the opportunities young adults need to become more self-sufficient. That could mean traveling solo or taking on a job in a new town, not to mention getting better with money management.

9 Financially Savvy Moves To Make in a Gap Year Before College

If you’re contemplating taking a gap year, it’s natural to wonder how much to save to make it a reality. You may also be curious if this year could be a boost or a bust for your finances.

Below we will explore 9 Financially Savvy Moves To Make in a Gap Year Before College:

Set Goals

Leaving high school can be a big adjustment. A lack of structure and goals can make it easy to lose focus. Use your time wisely by balancing rest and rejuvenation with setting meaningful goals to prepare for the future . Set goals as to what you’d like the outcomes to be, for how long it will be for and where you’d like to go. 

RELATED: How to Set Financial Goals For The New Year

Earn Money

Attending college costs a lot of money which means most students take on debt to receive an education. Working and saving money for a year can help reduce the overall amount you need to borrow. Due to a shortage of employees, many companies are hiring multiple positions, regardless of experience. If a 9-5 job isn’t your thing, there are many other creative ways to make money, like side hustles!

Set up a Saving Account

Set up a separate bank account for your savings. This is a great way to make sure that you don’t accidentally spend the money you have been working so hard to put to one side. It is also nice to see that number going up, it can act as motivation to keep going.

Don’t Spend all Your Money on Social Activities

Don’t go and live under a rock, but be reasonable about going out and spending money on partying. Drinks, movie tickets, concerts, eating-out; they all add up. Instead, have a movie night at home. Do some in-house cooking sessions with your friends or go out and enjoy nature. 

Look for Free Money

There are plenty of grants and scholarships out there created specifically to ease the financial burden of enrichment programming and travel during the gap year. During your gap year adventures, take the initiative to also look for ways to pay for school. Explore financial aid options and look for scholarships and grants. Getting money for school takes time and effort, but it’s definitely worth the struggle.

Start Investing

One of the best financial decisions you can make during your gap year is to take the money you are saving and invest it. Making investments early in life can set you up for a healthy retirement. If you are disciplined, you can spend the 12 months before college saving thousands of dollars. Meet with a financial advisor and put that money to good use. Even a small investment can pay off big time in the long run.

RELATED: Should You Pay Off Debt Before Investing?

Earn Extra Credit

Pursuing a work or internship program in your existing field of study can provide valuable experience and perspective that can be helpful when returning to college. But before you take off on your endeavors, confirm with your university advisor precisely what documentation you need. For some schools, this will mean a research paper at the end of your experience

Review your College Plan

Consider meeting with a financial professional to review your current college plan and determine whether making changes can be an advantage to overall saving. Discuss how taking a year off may affect financial strategies in the plan. 

Explore a Variety of Career Opportunities

Taking a gap year is one of the best financially savvy moves ways to figure out what you want to do for a job. Instead of tying yourself into a career path, a gap year will let you try out lots of different roles. Allowing yourself the freedom to try new and different jobs can be a liberating experience  and will teach you a lot about yourself and what you love to do for work.

Did you or will you take a gap year? What’d you do? How did a gap year prepare you financially before college?