Benefits of a Gap Year

Posted on: June 1, 2023Chicago

Taking a gap year has become an increasingly popular option for students in recent years. While some may view it as a delay or distraction from pursuing higher education or starting a career, there are numerous benefits to taking a gap year:

1.) Time to reflect on what you want in your career. This is a great time to explore opportunities both inside and outside the field you want to pursue, as a gap year can help you make a more informed decision about your future academic and career paths. This can allow you to either strengthen your desire for entering your field of choice, or give you the opportunity to pivot if you wish. During my time with NHC, I have had the chance to learn more about public health through serving at my host site, Legal Council for Health Justice, as well as through volunteering and training sessions. Learning how to better serve patients and my community has solidified my passion for pursuing a career in medicine. In addition, my gap year has provided me with a glimpse of what a typical 9-to-5 job entails. Although I enjoy having a set schedule and time to myself after service, having experienced what it’s like has made me more confident about starting medical school without that itching feeling of “What if?”.

2.) Time to explore. A gap year provides an opportunity for personal growth and development. You have time to travel to new places, pick up new hobbies, develop healthy habits that might have been lost during the stress of school, and learn about yourself in a way that may have not been possible in a traditional academic setting. This can help to develop a greater sense of self-awareness, confidence, and independence, which are valuable skills in any career or academic path. Taking a gap year can also help alleviate some of the stresses of preparing for graduate school or entering the workforce by giving you time to recharge and pursue interests outside of Academics. During my gap year, I have had the chance to visit Nepal, Egypt, and many cities within the U.S., such as Los Angeles, Detroit, and Denver. As a Florida native, being in Chicago for service has been such a great way to see everything this city has to offer! I have also found the time to get back into reading, listen to new music, and pick up cooking. This year has additionally allowed me to reset my habits like sleeping enough and eating healthy, as the frenzy of senior year and building my medical school application threw off my schedule. Having this time to reset has really helped me feel prepared for the next stage of my life.

3.) Strengthen relationships with friends and family. A gap year is the perfect time to rekindle and reinforce relationships because with the hectic pace of everyday life, finding time to connect and catch up with loved ones can otherwise be a challenge. For me, this was particularly true as most of my family lives in Nepal and I had very few opportunities to spend time with them growing up. Fortunately, during my gap year, I have been able to go on a few trips with my cousins, and three of them even live nearby! We regularly have dinners, watch movies, and explore Chicago together, which has brought us closer than ever. Without this gap year, I would not have had the opportunity to nurture such a meaningful relationship. For that, I am forever grateful.

4.) Bring a new perspective into your work. Whether you decide to volunteer, work, travel, or take rest, every experience during your gap year teaches you things that bring a new perspective within your profession. My role at Legal Council for Health Justice as a Special Populations Community, Client, and Partner Liaison typically involves aiding clients in applying for public benefits, reviewing medical records to build a claim for clients’ SSDI benefits, and developing educational materials that inform both clients and legal advocates about new rulings that potentially impact a client’s level of care. I have also been working alongside Legal Council’s community organizer to build a Community Council in the south side of Chicago which brings forth positive change in the neighborhood using the ideas and leadership of community members themselves. These experiences have been a wonderful opportunity to learn what a prominent tool law can be to achieve better health outcomes and understand how we can exchange power and knowledge with the people of our community to improve health outcomes in many different ways outside of doctor-patient relationships. From personal growth and development to gaining valuable work experience and making more informed decisions about their future, a gap year can be a valuable investment in one’s academic and professional development. While it may not be the right choice for everyone, those who do decide to take a gap year should approach it with intentionality and purpose, using the time to explore new opportunities and gain valuable experience.


About the Author:

Stutee Acharya

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Position Title: Special Populations Community, Client, and Partner Liaison 

Where are you from? Tampa, FL

Why did you decide to join NHC? To learn more about the social determinants of health and how it plays out in real life

What are you hoping to gain or learn during your service term? Interpersonal skills that allow me to communicate with people of a wide range of backgrounds

Host Site

17 N. State St.
Chicago, IL 60602
17 N. State St.
Chicago, IL 60602