The Benefits of Taking a Gap Year

Alternatives to a 4-Year University Degree

Take a Gap Year

Between High School and College Gap Year

A gap year—a year off between high school and college—is an idea that started in the United Kingdom and has evolved into something that is now recommended by some of the top colleges in the United States. In fact, even Harvard encourages students to a take a gap year. By taking a year off to rest, travel, or work a job, students gain the skills and experiences necessary to take the next steps in life. When considering that, according to the American Gap Association, students who take a gap year are more likely to graduate with a higher GPA than students who pursued a 4-year degree right out of high school, there are very few downsides to a gap year. Plus, according to The Leap, amongst students who have taken a gap year 66% reported being more focused on their academic future after a break, 60% reported being more sure about their major and which school they wanted to attend, and 88% felt as if the gap year “added to their employability.” Considering that not many 18-year-olds are certain of their future; a gap year could be a very beneficial option.

Taking a gap year will also allow for students to avoid the dreaded “burnout phenomenon.” The burnout phenomenon is characterized by students experiencing an inability to focus on their studies due to having been overwhelmed by the pressures of academia and  extra-curricular activities since childhood. Students who experience the burnout phenomenon may be more prone to picking an ill-fitting college that may not meet their interests and long-term goals, be unable to commit to a major, or be unable to maintain a high GPA due to the severe stress associated with this phenomenon. Taking a year off to rest and reflect on the future through work and travel helps students make a level-headed decision about their future education.

Students that are excited about college who have already chosen a major may do just as well starting college life right after high school, but not all students are the same. By taking some time off for traveling or working, students can gain experiences that will help them in the real world, like how to manage personal finances, live on their own, or gain a great section for their resume through a job or internship, which will give them a leading edge in college and after graduation.

Plus, taking the time to travel allows students to be exposed to other cultures and ways of thinking. This teaches a sense of open-mindedness which contributes to the ability to work in a variety of company cultures later in life. Traveling before getting settled into a career is easier since there isn’t a lot of time to take off for traveling as an intern or entry level employee, whereas it’s encouraged during college. These experiences lead to a better understanding of the world and what’s important to a student regarding their future. Taking some time off to work can also be beneficial to the decision-making process, as it allows for the on-the-job experiences that build up a resume. Working also provides students with a chance to improve their professional skills, save money to help pay for college, and improve their social skills.

A 4-year university degree program isn’t the only option. For some students, starting at a community college is a great way to make the transition to college life in a cheaper and less pressured environment. Another great option, for certain fields, is to attend a trade school. These offer job-specific training at cheaper prices and in less time.

It’s important to realize that not everyone’s path is the same, and that’s okay. Life is about going on the journey of finding out what you really want and then taking your own path to get there.

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