Should I Take a Gap Year?
The average person spends about 14 years in school, from pre-k to 12th grade. And after graduating high school, it's straight to college for most students, with no breaks in between. And while summer breaks used to feel like a lifetime, as you get older, they somehow become two-week intervals between end-of-year exams and the start of Summer Session I. Your time slowly becomes consumed with school and, for others, work, as well, and before you know it, you're burnt out. No one talks about the importance of time off when in the pursuit of a college degree, but at Bold.org, we believe a little self-care can go a long way, even if it means taking a much-needed extended break from school, like a gap year.
In this article, we will go over what a gap year is, the reasons to take a gap year, the pros and cons of taking a gap year, and things you can do to prepare yourself to go back to school and focus on your future career path. So, wherever you are in your college career, if you're burnt out, have new interests, or are simply thinking about taking a gap year, we are to tell you everything you need to know about taking a gap year.
Understanding What a Gap Year Is
Taking a gap year can seem like a setback, especially to parents who don't agree to a few months, let alone a year-long break from school, but for some students, it can be a transformative experience that can cultivate a fresh perspective, introduce a new culture, personal growth and a newfound focus they didn't have before. So, before you write it off as an excuse to avoid school, let's talk about what exactly a gap year is.
What Is a Gap Year?
A gap year is when students take a year off school, traditionally the year between high school graduation and the first year of college, and it is meant to give students a break from their educational journey. It's important to note that though a gap year is typically taken right out of high school, it has become more common to see students take any year off of school post-high school. Now, we know what you're thinking: a year is a long time, and we agree. A year is a long time off of school, but the time is meant to be used to your advantage and bring you life experience you didn't have before.
A gap year is also taken within a 12-month period. While most people think a gap year is a solid year, it can also be taken in less time. Some students might only need a gap year association for a few months, while others may need the full year, and that's okay. The time taken in the year is at your discretion and should align with your goals.
What Isn't a Gap Year?
Now, while gap years have become quite popular, we don't want it to be misconstrued for something that it’s not. A gap year is not a vacation. With nothing but time on your hands, it's easy to get lost in the leisure of its purpose, but we want to emphasize the importance of using that time wisely and constructively. Gap years tend to help students gain perspective on their future, so if you're thinking of taking a gap year, ask yourself what you want to get out of this time period before putting a pause on your higher education.
Reasons to Take a Gap Year
So, you've come to terms with the fact that you need a break. Now, you just need to decide whether your rationale for taking time off school is valid. Sometimes, the whirl of what's going on in the present can cloud your judgment. So, in case you're unsure if what you're going through warrants time off, let's go over some reasons to take a gap year so you can make an informed decision.
- You're burnt out. Between full-time classes, extracurricular activities, sports, studying, and work, there's barely enough time left in the day to wind down. You find yourself stretching yourself thin until it's too late, and you're completely burnt out. And we know needing to balance it all on your own can be overwhelming. This can not only affect your grades and overall performance in school and work, but it can also be a burden to your immune system. A gap year can help in that department to maintain a healthy school-life balance. We recommend refocusing your energy on your health so you can get back in the game stronger than ever.
- Finances. Let's face it. School is expensive, and the financial burden can cause anyone to want a break from tuition fees. Whether it be out-of-pocket or through the help of financial aid, the costs of living and going to school add up, and before you know it, you have to drop classes to afford to remain enrolled in at least one. Or it can be something as trivial as your financial aid not coming through on time.
- The heaviness of the financial responsibility can cause stress and ultimately lead to forfeiting a semester. A gap year can not only help students catch up on finances, but it can also buy them time (no pun) to make sure their financial aid comes through, as well as apply for scholarships for more financial support.
- New Experiences. Taking a gap year can also be seen as a period of time to make new experiences. This can be anything from focusing on passion projects or traveling the world. Traveling can open doors to learning about different cultures, living in a new environment, and meeting new people. You can also make new friends that can turn into lifelong friends. Traveling the world can have such a positive impact on not only yourself but the world around you. Plus, having hands-on experience in unfamiliar, new environments can also help you learn how to handle real-world situations you didn't know how to before.
- Build Your Resume. A gap year can be taken to gain professional experience by joining the world field and building your resume up. Having professional experience will help you attain a good work ethic while simultaneously teaching you how to be more responsible with your time. Time management is crucial for success, and having a job can assist in becoming a valuable asset for any job.
- Make Money. Though we know it's possible to work and go to school at the same time, taking a gap year to focus on your professional career gives you a chance to make money and learn financial responsibility. This decision can help you become more financially stable and prepare you for the future.
- Travel. Traveling can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling life experiences in the world. Taking a gap year can help you gain a new perspective on life, introduce you to different cultures, inspire you to learn a new language, and simply get you out of your comfort zone. It gives you the chance to explore not just the world but yourself, as well.
Taking a Gap Year: Pros and Cons
Now that we've gone over a few reasons why more students might choose to take a gap year, let's take a look at our list of pros and cons for taking a gap year.
Pros for Taking a Gap Year
- You'll enter or reenter college with a fresh perspective and will be refocused
- You can broaden your horizons
- Gain new life experiences
- Learn a new language
- Set yourself up for professional success
- Set yourself up for financial success
- Build your resume
- Get well-needed rest and recovery
- Pursue passion projects
- Spend time with family
- Discover new interests
Cons for Taking a Gap Year
- Might make you feel like you're wasting time
- Might make you feel isolated
- Might make you feel like you're behind
- Your parents might not agree
- Might cause a difficult transition when going back to college
- Lose momentum
- Could be expensive
Whether a gap year is in your plans or not, we want you to be fully aware of not just the rewards, but the risks, as well.
How Gap Experiences May Vary
Now that we've gone over what a gap year is and the reasons to take one, it's time to talk about the reality of different experiences.
Gap-year experiences may vary for everyone, but that's okay. While some gap year students might be traveling and experiencing the world, you might be home building your resume and focusing on your career, both paths still serving their purposes. Your gap year experience should align with your goals before starting college again and not the ideals of your peers. So, if someone you know is taking a gap year, stay focused and committed to the journey, and you will have the best gap year and make special memories.
How to Prepare for a Gap Year
Making the gap year plans or decision to take a gap year can be a difficult one to make if you don't know where to start, but don't worry. We've got you covered. Below are a few quick tips on how to prepare for a gap year.
- Make a pros and cons list of why you should take a gap year
- Do research on the benefits of taking a gap year
- Set goals on what you want to accomplish within your gap year
- Establish realistic expectations and rules for yourself throughout this journey. I.e. keep partying to a minimum or read a certain amount of books within a set period of time. These will only help shape your self-discipline and focus
- Set a budget and/or financial goals for the year
Although there is no right way to prepare for a gap year, these few tips can help you get organized and informed before making any permanent decisions.