Taking a gap year might be a new concept in the US, but in Europe, the tradition is much more common. While normally a gap year refers to taking time off between high school and college, the term can also be used to describe taking a year off between college and grad school. But is a gap year right for everybody? Should you do it? Let’s take a look at some gap year pros and cons to get an idea if this off-the-beaten-path might be right for you.
5 Gap Year Pros and Cons
1. The Clock is Ticking…
It’s hard to break the traditional ebb and flow of education. As soon as you graduate from high school, everyone expects you to head off to college in the Fall, or get a job ASAP. Convincing your family and relatives that taking a gap year isn’t actually you just being lazy might take some work (and maybe a family sit-down with a PowerPoint presentation. Use this article if you need).
Taking a gap year can look as unique as you are. You might spend the gap year with a traditional trip around the world. You might choose one distant location and do a work program there. You might stay home and work at the local grocery store and save up money. The whole point of the gap year is that you’ll have time to pursue other passions, to try out the real world, and to gain experience and understanding.
So before you decide to take a gap year, really ask yourself WHY you want to take a gap year. Are you thinking of majoring in business? Maybe an internship for a year will really help you decide if the business world is right for you, and help you niche down so you can get the most out of your college experience. Or are you itching to travel the world and a semester abroad just won’t cut it? This is your chance to absorb and take the time to really see what’s out there for you.
But because of this gap year, when you finally do head off to college, you’re going to be a year behind your friends. Your new graduating class year won’t be the same, and you’ll be a year older than most of the other incoming freshmen. And it will be harder to keep in touch with your high school friends when it feels like they’ve moved on without you.
But honestly, don’t let this bother you. Life and education is not a race, and finishing a year earlier won’t mean anything in the long run. Having that gap year that you spent wisely, however, CAN have an impact on your future. Your time and experience will open the door for new friends, and the old friendships that count will still be around.
2. Money, Money, Money
Depending on what you want your gap year to look like could mean the difference between spending and saving. If you have the money, then signing up for a gap year program that takes you around the world could be a wonderful option for you. But what if you don’t have the money, and you’re already worried about just paying college tuition?
A gap year doesn’t have to mean spending more money, as is the most common gap year tradition. You could spend your gap year working, gaining real-world experience, and setting aside some savings for your future college endeavors. There are even some great programs for working abroad, where you’ll earn minimum wage and just have to put up the expenses of traveling and getting your paperwork sorted. There are even programs like this within the US that can provide a great experience for your gap year.
A gap year is what you make of it. If you can afford to travel the world, then great! But if you need to stay closer to home and earn some money, then JUST. AS. GREAT. Don’t feel like you have to go on a grand adventure around the world to make your gap year worthwhile or to justify delaying your start to college for a year.
This is your chance to build some invaluable experience and to grow as a person, no matter where in the world you do that.
3. Academic Rigger
One of the biggest arguments against taking a gap year is that you’ll lose momentum in your studies. While this can certainly happen, the statistics on the matter state the opposite. Taking a gap year has been shown to actually boost academic performance in college, as students come back to school refreshed and ready to take on the challenge of studying. They’ve now seen what the world has to offer, and are ready to study hard to achieve their newfound goals.
Taking a gap year can also help students prevent burnout. After a hectic senior year of stressful college applications and SATs, some students just need a moment to breathe and really figure out what they want to do next. Taking a gap year gives students a chance to really consider what future career they want to pursue, and gives them time to research and consult with professionals about the best way to pursue that career.
Plus, sometimes everyone just needs to take a step back for a minute. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If anything, a gap year will have you raring to go and ready to jump into your college curriculum with a newfound focus.
4. Future Jobs
We can’t talk about gap year pros and cons without mentioning the effect it will have on your future employment opportunities. How you spend your gap year will be a crucial asset to your resume in the future. Rest assured that employers will be very curious about this mysterious year in your resume.
While having to explain what a gap year is and how you took advantage of your time might seem like a negative thing at first, it’s actually a wonderful opportunity to show how resourceful, mature, and unique you are as a candidate for future positions. A gap year can look very impressive on a resume…as long as you don’t spend that gap year just sitting at home.
This is where planning with a college and career advisor can really come in handy when deciding on how to spend your gap year. What you do with this time can really enhance your resume for jobs in the future, and employers like to see someone who isn’t afraid to break the mold and learn something new.
Taking a gap year is basically like taking your first college course: Adulting 101. Depending on what you do with your gap year, you’ll either learn about other cultures, countries, and customs, or you’ll learn first-hand experience in a working environment. This will give you a leg up amongst your peers, as you’ll have an experience that most college students do not have until many years later. When graduation rolls around and it’s time to pick a new path in life, it won’t be your first rodeo.
That being said, taking a gap year is going to take a lot more planning on your part. You’ll need to decide on a lot of things in advance. What are you going to do with your gap year? Do you want to join a program or go solo? Do you want to stay closer to home? Are there any locations accepting job applications right now from someone your age? Can you afford to take a gap year? Will your choice college let you defer enrollment for a year?
A successful gap year requires planning, but whoever said that learning only starts in college? This is a great opportunity for you to start learning about decision-making and what you need to succeed in the real world.
Think a Gap Year is Right for you?
If you’re seriously considering a gap year, but you aren’t sure if it will make sense for you and your dream career, then the best person to ask is a college and career consultant. We can help you choose the best path for you, optimizing every step you take to make the most out of these important years. Sign up today for a free consultation to see if a college and career advisor can help you achieve your dreams.