A gap year is a time taken between the end of high school and starting college when students can learn about themselves and become better prepared for entering higher education. There are a number of reasons why taking this time can be a good idea, as it does present students with advantages to their academic and personal growth. Let’s take an in-depth look at how taking a year off before college can benefit students.
The History of the Gap Year
The history of the gap year is an interesting one. The gap year as people now know it arose during the 1960s. The cultural and social revolutions of the time sparked public interest in cultural exchanges. It was thought by many that these exchanges might create cross-cultural understandings that would eventually stop wars.
While not all gap years today are filled with treks around the mountains of South America or the Buddhist temples of India, the original spirit of the gap year remains. True enough, some students will spend time in foreign locations, soaking up the culture, and building a greater understanding of another culture.
Others will use the time to gain work experience. Still, others will take a necessary mental break. This time away from academia allows them to consider how they want to spend the next several decades of their lives without the pressure of school forcing them to make a decision they may later regret.
Who Should Take a Gap Year?
Not everyone is suited for time off from school. Some students find that they lose momentum if they take a sabbatical from school. Others feel like taking time off would put a pause in some already well-thought-out plans. Those students shouldn’t take time off.
However, according to Forbes, a year off from school benefits a number of students. For example, students who feel like they need to answer a number of important questions about themselves and their goals may want to take some time off from their studies. These students want to consider what a successful life really looks like. They also want to experience a completely different world than the one in which they were reared.
Whether an individual decides to take this time off to travel, work, or dedicate themselves to a particular interest, it’s likely that they will gain a new perspective on life. This enhanced view will allow them to see the big picture when it comes to the things that are most important in life. Because they will be exposed to other people from different backgrounds, they will look at the world differently than their peers who go straight from high school to college. These students will tend to see their entire world as those around them, while gap year students will know that a broader life exists outside their campus or group of friends. This understanding will allow them to take small disappointments in stride.
It’s actually more likely that gappers will get better grades and become more involved in college activities after taking a gap year. This time out of school teaches them a great deal of responsibility. They learn to make decisions on their own and obtain real-world practice that students going from one form of school to another simply don’t have. Maturity is bound to pay off when it comes to overall college performance and adjustment.
Whatever a gapper’s experience is during their time off, it likely will be different than their high school years in which they were sheltered and always knew what to expect. Getting accustomed to new experiences during a year off will be a huge help when it comes to adjusting to college life. Students who take gap years probably will already have the experience of meeting new people, learning different rules, and acclimating to unfamiliar environments. Adapting to college life will be a breeze for them.
Most young people enter college having no idea what they want to do with the rest of their life. That’s absolutely okay. College is a time for learning and growing, along with gaining academic and vocational skills. However, many students drift from one major to the next without a plan, which can lead to taking a number of classes that may not count toward graduation. Taking a year to experience a different way of life can provide students with a clearer vision of the kind of work they might or might not enjoy. This knowledge can save a great deal of money and time.
Types of Opportunities
A number of different opportunities exist for the student who wants to take a breather. The simplest plans for a year off often include working locally. Doing this gives students an opportunity to gain professional experience and to save some money for school.
However, this time off can also be quite an adventure. According to the Gap Year Association, students who take gap years usually fall into the following categories:
- Interested in gaining work experience
- Doing some volunteer or service work
- Looking for internship and career exploration opportunities
- No set plans: They want to see what comes.
Students who’d like to explore their gap year options further may want to check out the following organizations.
Students in search of programs will want to ask program coordinators a series of questions. These questions allow the would-be participants to determine what kinds of people typically go through the program.
A good set of questions includes inquiries about the types of programs. Potential program participants will also want to ask for references from past participants. As well, it’s good for would-be gappers to find out what kind of safety measures are in place for program participants.
Additionally, many of these programs cost money, including volunteer and service programs. Doing a good deed isn’t always free, though that doesn’t mean it’s not worth paying for. However, potential participants need to find out the costs so they can either save up the money or look for a cheaper program.
Finally, students interested in these programs should ask how they can prepare for their time off. The coordinating organization may have some suggested resources like videos or movies, books, or other materials.
These are a few reasons to consider traveling, working, or doing community service before heading straight off to college. A gap year can be one of the most beneficial life experiences a recent high school graduate can have.