By Sarah Doyle
When a student says that they took a “gap year”, there seems to be a certain stigma attached to it regardless of the context in which the gap year is taken. There are most definitely certain drawbacks to taking a gap year, but there are many positive outcomes despite there being setbacks and benefits reaped. There is no real reason that gap years shouldn’t be seen as a choice, and as a meaningful choice at that.
In 2018, over 230,000 people between the ages of 18 and 25 within the United States decided to take a gap year. More and more students around the world, and not just from the U.S., see the benefits of taking a year off before returning to the grind that comes with being a student.
Despite popular opinion, gap years have many benefits, and here are five reasons why a gap year might be just what some people need.
1.They Weren’t Ready for College
Coming straight out of high school and going to college is something that many students dread. College is a place to study a passion, and if that passion isn’t discovered, precious time and money can be wasted. In the United States, college students will change their major at least once, and on average about three times throughout their four years. They don’t have enough experience to know what their passion is and what they want to pursue through higher education. Giving themselves time to realize what they want to do and taking a break from schooling to pursue other things is just what some people need in order to be able to clear their minds and not feel burned out.
2. They Want to Broaden their Perspectives on the World
One student comments, “my friends who haven’t taken a gap year look around and see only college, classes, internships, resumes… I look around and see the entire world waiting for me.” Realizing that there is more of a world than what is in front of someone is a very key component of broadening a perspective. The full benefits of a gap year are reaped when there is opportunity awaiting and education still possible after the gap year is complete. A broader perspective on the world is just what students need in order to be successful. Going out into the world gives people an opportunity to see what it has to offer
3. They Want to Take a Break While Still Being Productive
Especially within a work environment, many students desire to just have a break from school and to be free after high school is over. There are a number of reasons why students might not want to start college right after graduation. Some may feel as though going right into college would seem like a continuation of high school. Contrary to the beliefs of some, gap years are not supposed to be a time to be lazy.
There are many successful and wide-ranging gap year programs that prove this stigma incorrect. Some examples of such programs are YWAM (Youth With A Mission), TBB (Thinking Beyond Borders), The Race, Projects Abroad, and Pacific Discovery. These are just a few of the hundreds of programs that are available. There is no shortage of things to do, whether in the United States or abroad. There is no need to stay at home doing nothing when the world is waiting.
This is also the ideal place and time to learn skills that will help students qualify for jobs and discover potential career paths. After the gap year, 73 percent of students felt more ready for college and more prepared to pursue their major. Employers also see the job experience that was gained from any time spent during the gap year; 72 percent of those who took a gap year said that the reason they had taken the gap year was to gain that specific work experience. When a candidate for employment has already had work experience related to the job, hiring him or her is a lower risk for employers than hiring someone with unrelated, to absolutely no job experience
4. They Can Grow in their Faith
Going on a gap year is also a time to grow in one’s faith and think about one’s relationship with God in regard to the truth. Many people choose to do a religious or mission-based program, and a lot of gap year options are designed for this very purpose. What better time to find a deeper connection with the creator of the Universe than through going out to the world and helping others.
5. They Make Friends and Go Beyond their Comfort Zone
Going on a Study-Abroad gap year program is beneficial because there is something fulfilling about finding one’s place in the world and broadening their horizons. The opportunity to make friends in an unlikely place is always priceless. Initially, 30% of people set off to travel alone. This says nothing for the fact that friendships can still be made, and unique people can’t be met throughout the year.
Forging long-lasting friendships from places outside of a school environment can give people more connections throughout the world. They genuinely meet people who can better develop their character. Developed and cultivated over the years throughout further schooling or not, these friendships can be created through shared experience or circumstance, instead of merely shared space.
Not just a concept created recently, gap years have been steadily growing in popularity. The statistics of the popularity of the gap year has risen considerably in the past few years, making it something of a trend. The idea of it began in the 1960s when the American teenagers began being more rebellious. They wanted to see the world and broaden their outlook. As of recent studies done in 2015 at UCLA, only 3% of American high school students opted to take a gap year out in the world instead of going straight into college.
Despite this statistic looking rather low, the amount of people who choose a gap year over a straight transition into college is not low. After people take a gap year, 90% of people go back to college to get a degree. A gap year does not mean that there is going to be a decrease in connectedness to other classmates, or a loss of knowledge from graduating high school–what people may forget in book smarts, they will most certainly make up for in practical and experiential wisdom that they may have gained on their year elsewhere.
Gap years are a place where lost and controlled high school graduates learn about who they are. During that time they can grow spiritually, individually, practically and emotionally along their journey. More and more people are taking to the idea that there is no need to rush academics as it will be there when they return. People are turning more to the beauty of the world and discovering their passion, place, and vocation in the world.