After high school, students typically choose one of two paths: school or work. However, a third option exists that very few even consider: taking a gap year. It may not be the norm in North America, but gap years are quite common and highly recommended in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Just like attending university or being in the workplace, taking a gap year is not right for everybody. It takes a lot of research and several factors should be considered before deciding on the next step.
- It’s a chance to regroup and rediscover. After being in school for several years, you can feel burnt out. Going to university while you aren’t in top shape mentally will only lead to poor performance. Use the time to get some well deserved rest and relaxation. Especially if you feel out of touch from yourself and the rest of the world, a gap year will only do you good as you reflect on your future goals and aspirations, as well as spend some much needed time with family and friends.
- Most students take their year off to travel. Whether you’re backpacking through Europe or meditating in an ashram in India, you’ll revel in your newfound respect for different cultures, customs, beliefs and languages. You will end your gap year with several stories and memories that will last a lifetime.
- Some students also take the opportunity to work. The money saved up from working is put towards future endeavours and purchases such as a home, a car or an education. Others work to gain an edge in an overly competitive career market. By taking internships or job opportunities related to their career path, they gain valuable experience and a chance to network with industry experts that will help their resumes shine.
- It’s also a time to pursue other passions. You might want the time to write your Oscar-winning screenplay or create a start-up company in your garage. You might even discover that you want to pursue a different career path.
- It’s a chance to get involved in something you really believe in. Release the humanitarian inside you and volunteer locally, nationally or internationally. Volunteer opportunities abroad can be done with Cuso International or the Peace Corps.
- You can easily lose momentum. Skills you had, such as essay writing, and knowledge you learned through your courses may be forgotten, making the transition back to school difficult.
- If you choose to travel, taking a gap year can take a huge financial toll. If you are unsure of the risk, ask yourself, “Is this a wise investment for myself or just a really expensive vacation?”
- It may be important to start early in your career. If you choose to go into a field that requires years of experience in order to succeed, being a year behind may not be the best option.
- You’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Wanting to attend countless parties is not a valid reason to take a gap year. Taking a gap year because you were rejected from your top school choice is not a good reason either – it will only make you feel worse. Above all, it can set you careening off of your career path. It’s best to look into the schools you were accepted to. You never know; you may end up loving your new school. If you don’t, you can always put in transfer applications.
- To truly make your experience worthwhile, a lot of planning is involved. This means looking at travel plans, accommodations and work/volunteer opportunities. You should also be weighing your options; looking at the costs and benefits of taking a year off as opposed to going to school. For help with planning your overseas expedition, there are resources in the library or online such as Real Gap Experience, gapyear.com and i-to-i.
- If you’ve decided on what you want to do, there may still be one more obstacle in your way: your parents. If unaware of the benefits of a gap year, they may disapprove and discourage you from taking a year off. They may also believe that taking a gap year will lead you to discontinuing your studies altogether. If this is the case, educate your parents on the benefits of taking a gap year and show them your plans to use it wisely and productively.