Whether you’re burned out from high school, want to see the world or just aren’t sure what you want to study in college, a gap year — a year between your senior year of high school and your freshman year of college — can be a great solution.

It can take many forms. Some students create their own itinerary, some take part in a gap year program and some spend the time interning, volunteering or working to save money for school.

Gap years are also piquing the interest of more students. According to the American Gap Year Association, there was a nearly 300 percent increase in attendance at gap year fairs between 2010 and 2014, the most recent period for which data is available — in part thanks to gap year programs that facilitate travel and volunteer opportunities. “I would definitely say gap years are on the radar of more and more students and parents who I see in my office,” says Peter Tilles, managing partner at Princeton College Consulting in Princeton, New Jersey. “But that’s different than actually doing it. It’s still a very small subset of students who complete a gap year.”

If you’re thinking about taking the leap, start by asking yourself these five questions.

1. Why Do I Want to Do This?

There is no “right” answer, but knowing what you’re looking for from the process can help tailor your plans. Maybe you’re considering a gap year because you want to try something new before deciding where to focus your studies, or maybe you want a taste of the “real world” before you commit to another four years of being a student. “Whatever you do, a gap year should be a deliberate, productive and structured time of personal growth,” says Julia Rogers, founder of En Route Consulting, a counseling company that advises students on gap year opportunities.

“I felt so much anxiety about college admissions and really needed a way to relieve some of the pressure after working so hard in high school,” says Sebastian Paine, a junior at New York University who spent a gap year in India, where he worked as a teaching assistant through Global Citizen Year. “I wanted something radically different than what I had been doing.”

2. What Do I Want to Do?

No matter why you are considering a gap year, it’s worth seeking out a gap year fair. Similar to a college fair, gap year fairs feature booths with information on various programs and can help you see what opportunities are out there. USA Gap Year Fairs sponsors fairs around the country, and your high school counselor may also know of local fairs you can visit.

“The benefit of doing a program is that there’s built-in oversight and mentorship,” says Rogers. But that doesn’t mean you need to focus exclusively on gap year programs. “All I knew for sure was that I wanted to see the world,” says Otua Sobukwe, a freshman at Wellesley College who traveled to 9 countries and 35 cities during her gap year. “I was able to line up short-term jobs and internships with periods of travel in between. Since I had been planning for my gap year since my sophomore year, I used personal connections and networking to find experiences over time,” says Sobukwe.

“There’s a misconception that gap years are only for the wealthy.”

3. How Will I Fund My Gap Year?

“There’s a misconception that gap years are only for the wealthy,” says Rogers. Not only do some programs offer scholarships and program-specific financial aid opportunities, but Rogers has seen students factor gap years into their overall college plan and budget.

“It’s no coincidence that the rise in gap years has coincided with the skyrocketing cost of college,” she says. “Sometimes, it makes the most sense for a student to take a gap year, do an internship or really hone in on what they want to study, and then finish college in three concentrated years rather than four.”

Rogers has also observed students socking away money to fund their gap years. “I held three part-time jobs in high school, because I knew early on that a gap year experience was important to me,” says Sobukwe.

4. When Will I Apply for College?

Just because you’re taking a year off before college doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for applications during your senior year of high school. “Most students who decide on a gap year follow the normal application process and then defer for a year,” says Tilles. That’s in part why it’s so important you know the gap year policies of the colleges you’re considering. “From my experience, private institutions are more likely than state schools to allow deferment, but it varies from college to college,” he adds. Some schools, like Harvard, actually encourage students to defer for a year. It’s worth a quick call to the admissions offices to inquire about their policies.

If your dream school doesn’t allow deferment, then you will have to apply during your gap year. It’s not impossible, but it does require some planning and legwork beforehand, says Tilles. “Even if you can’t apply during senior year, it’s a good idea to collect teacher recommendations when you are fresh in their minds and they can speak to your current work.”

Depending on your goals and list of schools, a gap year could help narrow down your college list. Sobukwe applied to schools during her gap year, at which point she felt more prepared and competitive as a candidate. “I had so much to say in the essay portion of the apps, because I’d had so much experience from my gap year I could draw from,” she says.

5. What Are the Risks and Benefits?

A gap year can be a great opportunity to recharge, explore an interest or dip a toe into the professional world. But it’s not a year to sit on the couch, veg and watch Netflix 24/7. And if you do take a gap year, know that you will enter college a year older than most other incoming freshmen and that you may feel out of step with your high school friends.

However, it also may be exactly what you need. “My gap year helped me develop several skills and habits that are currently helping me in college,” says Paine. “It was my first year in a decade without any homework, so I could actually sit down with a book just for fun. I learned to be independent without experiencing the academic stress of midterms and finals, and I found myself more prepared to be on my own when I did get to college. I even ended up changing my intended course of study.”

Seek to answer these questions with the help of your family and high school counselor, weigh the potential pros and cons and seek out the solution that feels right for you and your future.