A gap year, typically an academic year is a period taken by a student as a break between school and college education. Gap year students may consider taking advanced courses, studying art, volunteering, travel, etc.
But should students take a gap year? While numerous people have varying opinions about the topic, there is no correct answer. Each life is unique, and boiling everyone into one group is never a great idea.
Is it Worth Taking a Gap Year?
By taking a gap year, you can make the bold decision to slow down. Exploring different paths, figuring out which field of study to enter, or simply taking a break can be a few good reasons to consider taking a gap year.
A gap year is a time of transition; you need to be aware enough not to waste it. If you are still stuck to your old ways or do not achieve anything productive, it can turn out to be of no use.
To add to this, if you feel alone and stuck in your life while everybody around you is busy making new memories and going on adventures, you need to remember that you are taking on a challenge only a few accept.
During this period, you will discover yourself more than most people do during their first year of college. You’ll develop skills that will serve you in life: resilience, self-reliance, courage, and patience.
If you are unsure where life will carry you, a gap year can be an excellent chance to find a new life direction. The motto of a gap year to make it worth your time should be “grow, experiment, experience, and live.
What are the Benefits of Taking a Gap year?
While every gap year is different, some common advantages are waiting to benefit you:
One of the most significant advantages of a gap year is the flexibility it provides you with. If you’ve felt stuck in a rut, now’s the chance to break out of your shell. It can also be that the requirements are too rigid for you to explore what you love.
You are in charge of your schedule, accommodating your own goals and interests and outside factors like family commitments. You can shape your gap year as you go and change anything you are dissatisfied with anytime.
Time for reflection
School can be so fast-paced and competitive that there’s no time to stop and wonder how and what you want to achieve in life. This is especially true for high achievers who always aim to please and are unsure what they want.
With a gap year, you have the mental space to decide which career path is best for you so that you can redirect your energy and time into something you are genuinely passionate about.
Career building potential
You can experiment, trying for a career where you can learn from experts, get experience, and seek specialized training. This is the opportunity to earn certifications or become proficient in skills in your career field.
A gap year should contribute to your resume, and trying out one or two different careers in this time doesn’t hurt- it only sharpens your focus.
This is a chance for you to be on your own and learn how to be independent. You get to be entirely responsible for yourself and grow as a person in this process. It prepares you well for dorm and university life.
A sense of purpose
With time, you start to discover a sense of purpose. Investing in yourself, you get to go after what you want with full force and contribute to what you deem critical.
Gap year programs
Programs like the GYA Accredited Gap Year program allow students to count on experiences with the highest caliber of field leadership, the best degree of office support, and the highest security standards.
Control and Customization
A gap year can be whatever you want it to be. You can find programs that are already organized for you or make a plan independently. Maybe you choose to take a class abroad, study in a creative program, or learn a skill online from home.
Are you thinking of working? Gap years can be structured or tailored to the kind of experience you are curious to explore. You can apply for and find a paying job or internship, a volunteer position, or even a combination of both.
What Do Universities Think About Gap Years?
Colleges and universities recognize the increase in students taking gap years, and they support it. Furthermore, they even have movements to make a gap year more accessible.
Universities such as Tufts, Princeton, and the University of North Carolina have established their service-based gap year programs for accepted students, regardless of their ability to pay.
Princeton University’s Bridge Year program talks about the benefits of these programs as: “The knowledge, understanding, and skills gained through the Bridge Year serve not only to enhance a student’s undergraduate experience at Princeton but also contribute to the overall strength of the University’s educational community.”
These universities believe incoming students will emerge more evolved as a result of their gap year and are keen to provide an environment where students feel okay to take a year off and explore opportunities without feeling like they are out of place.
Universities are interested in hearing about your intended plans and what you gained from your year off- this can entail earning money, interning in a specific field, or traveling the world. These are things you should include in your statement and portfolio.
What Does the Research Say About Gap Years?
Are students who take gap years more successful? While society seems to have its thoughts on it, according to case studies, gap year students outperform their peers in college by 0.1 to 0.4 on a 4.0 scale. About 90% of students said their year helped them develop personally with increased self-confidence and better communication skills.
Individuals are alarmed that temporarily stepping away from schooling might cause people to abandon the academic track altogether. The percentage of students who return to college after taking a year off is around 90 percent.
A gap year can sound like a daunting choice, but here are some researched based findings that can help ease the suspicion and anxiety regarding them:
- American universities say that students who take a gap year achieve 23 percent higher grades than students directly to college
- 60 percent of gap year students claim that they took their studies more seriously after taking a year-long break from education
- 60 percent said that a gap year helped them decide what they wanted to major in and their future career direction
- 88 percent of people think that the gap year and the experiences during it boosted their employability
- 70 percent of gap year students decided to travel in a group and joined programs offered by an approved gap year organization
- 80 percent of gap year students in the UK work at some point during their gap year
These gap year statistics portray the effectiveness and authenticity of experiences a gap year can enrich your life with and how it can be a risk worth taking.
Should You Take a Gap Year?
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to rethink their long-term plans, such as committing to university, because virtual learning has not led to reduced costs in education. Numerous students also opted to take a gap year during university.
Notable limitations caused due to the pandemic include limited international traveling and participation in large-scale, face-to-face service opportunities. This has caused a shifted outlook on whether students should take a gap year.
The pandemic is a way to bring out the entrepreneur side of the gap year students, forcing them to think about opportunities close to home. It challenges you to be more creative and use the extended time we are confined at home to pick up things online quickly.
Furthermore, many students who are at risk of academic burnout benefit from taking a gap year to return to school much more motivated and energetic. It boosts your maturity, confidence, and organization skills as well.
Some universities will allow you to take a year out, referred to as voluntary suspension, intermission, or leave of absence. Should you, though, take a gap year during university? That is probably not as good an idea as taking a gap year before starting university.
You have to seek your university’s permission for such a break, and universities are not obliged to grant it to you. In addition to this, it can affect your student loans and tuition fee, so it is essential to make financially informed decisions in this regard.
A gap year can be highly beneficial as long as you have thought out the timing of its space in your life and strategized how to go about it.
How Do You Plan a Great Gap Year?
To reap the benefits of a successful year off from academics, you should put some thought and planning into the structure of the type of experience you want. Here are a few tips on how you could achieve this:
Figure out what you want to accomplish during this time
Do you want to travel? Earn money? Gain experience in the field you are thinking of pursuing? It would help if you first dished out broad goals for your gap year, which you can then narrow down.
If you want to travel, where do you want to travel? What do you hope to gain from traveling? If you wish to work experience, what kind of places are you looking for? Can you afford to do unpaid or volunteer work?
It would be best if you asked yourself such questions to figure out what you want to have a solid plan to implement when the time comes.
Decide on a timeline and determine your budget
One of the most important things you need is to figure out how much time and money you can invest into your gap year. Figuring your financial standing early on is key to determining you don’t apply for jobs or programs you can’t complete.
If you decide upon living at home during your gap year, you might have few to no expenses. However, if your gap year includes travel or programs with admission fees, these costs can add up. Therefore, budgeting is essential.
Are you worried about your gap year lasting longer than initially planned? Have a strict end date set upfront and stick to your schedule.
Wrapping Things Up: Are Students Who Take Gap Years More Successful?
For many people, a gap year is an excellent way of doing something you’ve only dreamed of accomplishing. You should, therefore, take advantage of one of the few times where you can uproot your entire life and start anew.
You get to view the world from a fresh perspective, grow wiser and be more productive with nothing to hold you back. In short, a gap year might be exactly what you need if you do it right.