A gap year: what some parents think is an excuse for teens to slack off can actually be extremely beneficial… but that’s only if they do it right.
It’s no surprise that after graduating high school and finishing approximately 12 years of consistent education, students would want a break. With school being the sole structure in their lives for over a decade, it’s only natural that some dream of nothing more than to explore life outside of it. And so, they decide to take a gap year, i.e., one year off in between high school and university. Some use this time to try out jobs in their prospective industries and see if it’s really for them. Other might decide to travel and explore their new profound independence while simultaneously learning about new cultures and meeting various unique individuals.
But is taking a gap year really worth it if it’ll set you behind in your education and career? After draining your bank account, will you be able to truthfully say you benefited from your year off? So, before you call the admissions office and declare that you will not be joining classes next year, let’s first examine the advantages and disadvantages of taking a gap year.
- Gain Real-World Experience
We all know how hectic high school can be. Aside from the stress of classes, many take on extra-curriculums to pack their university application with activities and achievements that will make them stand out from other applicants. And while these clubs might be beneficial, students are still usually sheltered in the bubble of a school community.
And here comes the benefit of a gap year. Students can spend this year experimenting with different roles in the industries they are interested in. Rather than spending four years pursuing a major and then realizing that the industry is different from what you learned in class you’ll be able to save money and more importantly time, as this work experience will make you more certain of what you decide to study. Plus, who wouldn’t want to make their CV more impressive all the while making some extra cash on the side?
Moreover, if you’re not able to find work in areas you’re interested in, then worry not because any work is beneficial. Whether you’re working in a coffee shop or as an assistant in a firm you wish to work in in the future, both jobs will teach you valuable lessons and introduce you to the real world so that when you do graduate, you’re ready to take it on by storm.
- Do Better in University
What might surprise you is that taking a gap year can improve your grades when you get back to school. This is because after 12 consistent years of preparing for exams, writing papers, and constantly doing research, many experience academic burnout. Taking some time off and resting can definitely increase your motivation and energy. Additionally, as you take more time to consider what you want to do career-wise, you might become more excited to get fully immersed into your major, increasing your dedication to your studies and consequently your grades. Another way gap years help you do better in university is that they teach you essential and valuable skills such as organizational skills and force you to grow and become more mature and confident.
- Meet New People
Whether you decide to bag-pack around the world, volunteer in a country you’ve never visited, or get a job in your hometown, you are bound to meet some fascinating people. Not only might they make you change your perspective of the world, but they could also push you out of your comfort zone, which is one of the main ways we grow. Additionally, meeting new people can help you understand yourself better as you become introduced to different views of the world and perhaps different cultures. And knowing yourself more will definitely help you when deciding what it is you want to study.
- Fall Behind Your Peers
Something to be expected is that by taking a year off, you will be behind some of your friends who decided to enter university right away. For some, this might not be a problem but for others, the idea of starting a new chapter in life, and entering a world much different than the one they’d known can feel scarier if they’re venturing into the university alone not surrounded by friends. Furthermore, being behind your peers not only means starting late but also finishing late. This could be a problem as you might be forced to delay working towards your career goal. Plus, with the job market becoming more and more competitive by the day, finding a job might be harder, meaning that you would be losing earning potential.
Furthermore, although a gap year can help you achieve higher grades in school, sometimes it can have the opposite effect as the year off can make it challenging to get back into study mode. This could be a problem as transitioning from high school to university is a significant change that tends to be overwhelming. Now add in the possibility of finding it difficult to keep up and losing some of your study skills, and you might end up behind your peers.
- Can Be Expensive
While gap years can be a great way to obtain some life experiences, many do so by traveling, which can be pretty expensive. For that reason, gap years need lots of planning and organizing to ensure that money is not wasted when it doesn’t need to be. Additionally, consider other routes than traditional traveling. Perhaps look into organizations that allow you the opportunity to have free accommodation while volunteering or try to secure a remote job so that you can have a steady source of income while still traveling around the world.
- Potential of Wasting Time
For a gap year to truly be beneficial, you cannot spend it on your couch playing video games. And without the structure of traditional schooling students are used to or a set job schedule, there is a risk of time slipping away without you actually learning or achieving anything. For that reason, planning how you’ll spend your year is essential. Set goals and deadlines for yourself to ensure that this time will add value to your future.
So, Should You Take a Gap Year?
Well, that depends on your intentions and how you want to use that time. For some, deciding where to go to university and what to study at the age of 18 without having actually experienced anything outside of the sheltered community is frightening. In those cases, the pros of a gap year might outweigh the cons as they’ll get to explore who they are, obtain helpful life experiences and grow in a way that’ll help them better understand what they want to do for the rest of their lives. The idea of making extra cash on the side could also be a motivational force, especially if that money could help pay for university.
For others, the risk of falling behind and losing momentum when it comes to their academics can be greater than the lessons they might learn if they decide to leave the classroom. Furthermore, some high school students might just not feel ready enough to spend a year without the structure they’ve known their entire life and find the idea of a gap year more appealing after they graduate from university.
While gap years might not be for everyone, they can be an excellent way for you to grow.
Photo: Maii Yossakorn/Shutterstock
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