To Gap or Not to Gap?
As students leave high school and begin a new chapter in their lives, they face important decisions — do they continue to college, begin to work, or take a gap year? A lot of students actually have not heard of a gap year before, but it’s what it sounds like: time off. However, the purpose of a gap year is not to relax. The purpose is to ascertain if the time off is beneficial to future life choices. According to Dr. Andrew Jones, a professor at the University of London, a gap year is “considered a period of structured time off from three to 24 months-this can be done anytime: between high school and college, between undergraduate and graduate studies or after any graduation and the start of one's career.” In a perfect society, all youths have equal opportunities and exposure to career advancement. Realistically, youths are not equally aware of their options. Most youths are encouraged to begin college immediately upon high school graduation, even though taking a gap year is another option. Taking a gap year is an option that can be offered to all youth. With proper information, youths can appropriately weigh their options. Information on the gap year can provide opportunities that may not be otherwise explored. According to researchers, when individuals take a gap year, they acquire independence more rapidly.
So if you are interested in taking a gap year, you've come to the right place! To start things off, a high schooler would need to have an idea on the best path for their post secondary experience. Do you want to go straight to college? Do you want to get a job/internship to see if you like doing that field of work and gain experience? Do you want to travel and have money to do so? Do you want to apply to one of the several gap year programs across the US? There are so many questions to reflect on, and it is important to answer truthfully to ensure your best decisions.
Of course, let’s not forget the elephant in the room - how much will this cost me? Realistically, the cost of a structured gap year program runs approximately as much, if not more, to a year's tuition at most universities. Think of it as paying 5 years of college instead of 4, with an added dash of unique experiences.
Speaking of four year degrees - how does this affect your college acceptance(s)? Many colleges and universities across the United States are considering the idea, and even encouraging incoming freshmen to participate in a gap year. Harvard was one of the first to defer enrollment, and soon many non-Ivy League schools followed in their footsteps. Harvard defends this practice by openly stating a well-rounded student is one who comes to the college community with many life experiences. So to help you weigh your options, here are some pros and cons on the topic:
Some pros include:
- 90% of gappers returned to college/university within one year
- 98% of gappers found the year off help them develop as a person
- 98% found time for personal reflection
- 77% has impacted one's career decision
- 38% increased chances of completing college
Some cons to taking a gap year:
- There’s always a risk that the individual will continue on to college
- Lost “structure”
- Obsessed with making money; studying not the priority
- Age difference in the freshman class (ages range from the gapper)
- Deferment of top college choice is not an option
- Feels content with the experience as a gapper and further motivation is minimal
A gap year is meant to be filled with learning experiences and unforgettable impacts on you. You just have to choose the path you want to take after graduation. Make sure whatever path you choose, you make the most of it.