Everyone is telling you not to do a gap year. Gap years are much more common abroad than in The United States. When I was in high school they flashed the statistics at us. If you take a gap year you won’t go back. They urged us to go full force into college and not look back. But why? A gap year may be one of the smartest decisions that you can make after graduating high school! You have your entire life ahead of you. So here are 8 reasons why you should consider a gap year.
Why You Should Consider a Gap Year
1. College is EXPENSIVE!
If you don’t have plenty of scholarships, a college fund, or a state need grant to allow you to go to college for free or with minimal debt, the costs can rake up! This is the number one reason as to why you should consider a gap year. With the rise of tuition prices, many are finding themselves with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. If you’re already unsure about college or don’t know what you plan on studying, costs can become even more dramatic. Changing your major can take an extra year or two and the cost of all the new courses you need to take. Finding out you want to do something that doesn’t require a degree may have you end with loans and no degree. In addition to tuition, there’s the cost of books, room and board, food, and spending money.
I made the mistake of going straight into college, although I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I spent $10,000 of my own money that I had saved from working in high school on one year of college. Luckily, I lived with my parents and had a $4,000 scholarship, otherwise my expenses could have been more. Fast forward to now, I’m applying to enroll in an alternative program because my degree would not have benefitted me. Although I enjoyed my courses, they weren’t necessary for what I am now pursuing. Looking back, I don’t feel that it was worth the money.
So, about the money aspect of taking a gap year…
- You can work during your gap year to save money for tuition and other expenses and prevent loans and interest.
- Maybe you decide university isn’t for you. As a result you can save the money you would have spent on tuition, housing and books.
- You can save yourself potential change in majors or costs of unnecessary classes if you are unsure of your interests.
2. You Can Discover your Interests.
Another important thing to determine is what you are wanting to study. Like I said above, I was dead set on medical school or a related program like a Physician Assistant or Nurse Practitioner. If you know what you want to do then you might not care to take a gap year. There are people who graduate high school knowing what they want to do for the rest of their lives. That’s great! You’re ahead of the curve.
That isn’t the case for everyone, and that is totally ok! There’s no right answer. You don’t have to have a decision 2 months into your senior year of high school when you’re planning on applying to colleges. That is so much pressure!
Your entire life is ahead of you, and you should be able to make decisions on your own terms. If you have doubts or want to explore different options, maybe a gap year would be a good option for you.
3. You can Travel.
So, here’s the thing. I am victim to the travel bug. I LOVE to travel. If this is something that’s heavily weighing on your, it’s not going away just because you start college. During my first year at Washington State University, all I could think about was dropping everything to backpack SE Asia…. whenever I got stressed.
There may not be another time in your life when you have limited (or no) bills to pay, limited responsibilities, or the ability to just take a couple months off at a time to go travel! You could decide to wait until you graduate college but by that time you may be struggling to pay your loans, have a job offer to start right after graduation, or need a job to support yourself.
Taking a year off before college could enable you to get a job, work full time, and save for several months. You could then take your savings and spend a month (or a couple) traveling. You might find that you find your passion this way!
4. Maybe You’ll End up Finding Yourself.
Ok… I get this sounds cheesy! But, seriously. Taking a gap year can be just the thing to help you develop your own values, ideals, and independence. It can be a time to step away and think about what you really want, who you want to be, and where your personal meaning lies. Other people have been telling you what to do your entire life, but now it’s your choice. You don’t have to go to school everyday, you have the opportunity to create your own schedule and do your own thing.
Besides, it would really suck to be finish a program that others encouraged you to do, that maybe sounded just fine for you to pursue and realize it’s not for you at all. Now you’re lost, confused, and realize you never really took the time to find YOURSELF before making this huge commitment.
5. You will Become More Independent.
I briefly skimmed on this, but taking a gap year can be the key to becoming a more independent individual. Maybe you’re not good with time management, or you don’t really understand the worth of money. Dropping $20,000 for a year of university may seem fine to you now, but do you already have a full grasp on money management or the value of a dollar? Your basic needs have always been handled for you, as with your schedule.
Taking a gap year, whether your living on your own, traveling or just working can develop your independence fast. I would even go as far as saying that you will have much more maturity than your peers who decided to attend college right out of high school.
6. You can Take a Break and Enjoy Yourself.
You just spent the last 12 years of your life in school with the same daily routine and not much control over your life. Have you ever heard of burnout? You can only keep going for so long with out a break. Constantly working, stressing, and feeling like you have no sense of purpose can accelerate getting burnt out. When you experience burnout, you become disinterested in your studies and just stop caring. This is a huge reason why you should consider a gap year, and is the number one reason most students have opted to do so.
If you take a break now, you can decrease the risk of getting stressed and burnt out! It takes 4+ years to get a degree. Besides, don’t you deserve a break? You can take a break if you want or need one and you shouldn’t feel guilty what-so-ever for enjoying yourself. Your mental and physical health are important! If something doesn’t feel right or is giving you debilitating anxiety, you should take a breather.
7. You can Work or Volunteer in Your Field.
If you know what you want to study in college, there is still a huge reason as to why you should consider a gap year. What’s the harm in double checking? Taking a year to shadow, volunteer or work closely to your desired field can reinforce your decision. You can become more sure of yourself and get a renewed sense of direction. Or, maybe you just saved yourself a lot of time and realized that you actually feel a pull to something else.
Besides, you will have a leg up when you graduate when you have more applicable experiences (like an internship, work, or volunteering) in the field of your choice. Lots of others graduating college will have your degree, but they won’t have your experience. You may also have more opportunities in college like research when you have previous experience. All good things!
8. You Will Have a Greater Appreciation for School.
Going back to school after taking a break and knowing exactly what you want to do will give you a greater appreciation. You will know for a fact you are meant to be there and you will be more interested in what you’re learning. Your GPA will also have an advantage over your peers as those who have taken a gap year have shown to have better academic performance and greater academic motivation.
If You Decide to Take a Gap Year:
By now you’ve realized why you should take a gap year and if it’s right for you. Now you may be wondering what you should be doing on this year off. It’s not to binge Netflix, sleep until noon every day and mooch off your parents! There are so many different ways you can spend your gap year, although it is up to what you want to take away from your time and experience. Here are a few examples:
- Work (get experience or save money)
- Do an internship
- Start a Business
In the end, a gap year isn’t for everyone but neither is going straight into college after high school. I am not discouraging going to college, however, I feel that gap years were always discouraged and considered taboo when that really should not be the case. You should do what is best for yourself and not let pressure from your family, school, or friends stop you from taking care of yourself. This will be your future!
You shouldn’t let fear of not going back to school stop you because if you’re really motivated and feel that it is the right decision then you should trust that you will go back. If your gap year turns into two or three and that’s best for you, then trust yourself. You don’t need to follow a pre-determined timeline or have everything figured out. Spoiler alert: almost no one has life completely figured out and that’s okay! I hope you realize why you should consider a gap year and hope that you can determine if it’s truly right for you!
Did you take a gap year, wish you had, or are thinking about it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
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