By Makayla Cook
SATs, ACTs, clubs, homework, and sports are all things that the typical high schooler has to deal with on a daily basis. When their senior year comes around, do they take a break before deciding their next steps?
As defined on the Gap Year Association website, a gap year is, “A semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.”
Gap years can be tremendously beneficial but some people don’t take them in fear of not having the motivation to go back to school after their break. However, research shows that the fear of not returning to school isn’t something that students should worry about.
By the end of this article you may be thinking to yourself: should I take a gap year after college? Hopefully, you’re able to clearly see the pros and cons to determine the answer!
Unfortunately, the United States was a little behind on the gap year trend. It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that people in the U.S. decided to consider the idea of taking a break after school. However, gap years or a “grand tour” has been around since the 17th century in Europe, as written by Gap Year Solutions.
Europeans would take this time to travel the country, explore various architecture, learn new cultures, and put their language skills they’d learned in school to use. Initially, this opportunity was only available to elite or wealthy families in Europe due to how expensive they were. Years later, people came to the realization that gap years don’t always have to be expensive.
When gap years began to spread across the continent and reach areas like the United Kingdom and U.S., those who took gap years were known as “gappers,” hence where the name came from.
According to research conducted by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), only 3% of students in America take a break after graduating from high school. However, those who do decide to take a gap year, benefit from drastically positive results.
Gap years have increased self-confidence, acted as a boost for the development of high school graduates as people, and increased communication skills. These are all improvements that are favorable for those who do decide to go back to school; and even for those who don’t!
Mental health is a huge issue when it comes to students. With all of the responsibility and stress piled on them, it can be hard to take care of themselves with such little time. Depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety can spike with the uncertainty of their next steps or even knowing that several years of school may be in their future.
Taking a gap year allows students to get their mental health state in a good place, receive the professional help that they may need, and learn some effective tactics for dealing with stress in an environment where there’s an abundance of it: college.
But, what about college?!
Contrary to popular belief of it being hard to return to school after a gap year, an article by The Wall Street Journal reported that 90% of those students do return to school. Karl Haigler, one of the authors of “The Gap Year Advantage” advises students considering a gap year to “apply and gain admission to college first, then ask to defer enrollment for a year.”
This small piece of advice can make a difference for those students whose parents or guardians are afraid they will neglect college after taking a break. Being that there is a commitment put in place in advance, the chances of opting out of college is significantly lessened.
It’s not just a high schooler thing
Although gap years are most commonly associated with high school graduates, gap years can also be an option for college graduates. This time to recoup and evaluate their next steps can be the difference between choosing a path that they love and one that they hate.
Similar to high school graduate gap years, students can take the time to travel, save money, or simply relax before they take a deep dive into adulthood.
An article on Indeed even lists some of the professional and personal development programs available to those taking a gap year. These programs include leadership training, language immersion, cultural exchange, teaching, and nature and wildlife.
Being that this year’s graduation is just around the corner, it may be time for graduates to take a gap year or jump straight into the next chapter. Either way, the decision made was the best one to be made at the time. So, don’t be afraid to take a much needed time out.