As the name suggests, a gap year is typically a break in academic work between high school and the beginning of college. While traditionally a concept practiced in European countries, the gap year is becoming a more widely accepted concept here in the US as a way to engage in service programs, work experiences and travel for purpose [http://takingoff.net/who-takes-off/]. Here are 10 reasons, in no particular order, why a gap year might be the right fit for you.
1. Acquire New Skills
A college education provides you with a breadth and depth of knowledge and skills, but within the larger focus of the major and career path you intend to follow. A gap year offers an opportunity to learn new skills that excite you that you may not otherwise obtain through your college experience. Learning a foreign language through travel, refining your negotiation skills through a work experience or developing problem-solving strategies through volunteering are all potential skills that you could acquire during a gap year.
2. Develop Your Sense of Self
Throughout adolescence and into early adulthood, one of the crucial explorations that you will engage in is figuring out who you are and the ideals and values that you stand for and support. Taking a year off before starting college gives you the opportunity to explore volunteerism, service programs, fellowships and travel [https://careercenter.umich.edu/article/gap-year-resources]. These experiences allow you an opportunity for self-reflection and discovery, which will lend to more confidence and self-assuredness as you enter your college education and future career.
3. Gain Work Experience
One of the ways a gap year provides an advantage to you as a college student is through work experience. Instead of approaching college in the traditional way, where you learn first and practice later, a gap year allows you to try out and experience different jobs through paid employment, internships or volunteer work. Through these work experiences, you can gain insight into different approaches, processes and strategies that can be applied to future employment.
4. Narrow Your Focus
As a newly enrolled college student, deciding your career path for the rest of your adult life can be daunting. While colleges encourage you to explore a variety of subject areas through their required courses, you will also be required to declare a major early in your higher education [https://www.liberalartscolleges.com/picking-a-major-when-you-enroll-does-it-matter/]. Taking a year off from college allows you to explore your passions and interests prior to beginning your college education. You can engage in travel, work and volunteer experiences that can add to or eliminate potential career choices.
5. Improve Performance in College
The focus and rigor required to prepare a student for college can be very taxing, and this stress only continues once you enter college and the expectations increase. Some students may begin to experience academic burnout, which can impact their performance in their classes and possibly their overall success in their degree. A gap year provides you with an academically healthy break in between high school and undergraduate studies. Your mind continues to be challenged in new and different environments through self-driven pursuits and hands-on experiences. The gap year prepares you with new skills and perspectives and leaves you refreshed and ready to reenter the classroom when you begin college.
6. Increase Your Independence
College coursework requires an increased level of independence, initiative and rigor from students than their previous educational experiences. Additionally, living away from home for the first time means that you will need to navigate issues without the immediate support of your family and familiar friends. During a gap year, you will gain experience in navigating new cultures, jobs and social situations without the safety net of familiarity that you are accustomed to. These encounters will strengthen your ability to act independently in the face of new and potentially fearsome challenges, which will set you a step ahead of your peers when you enter college and ultimately your career.
7. Attain Global Awareness and Citizenship
In the 21st century, exposure to and experience with other countries and cultures is essential for almost all professions. It also provides an important context for content that you will study during undergraduate and graduate work. While many colleges offer study abroad opportunities to students toward the end of their undergraduate education, a gap year can give you an additional advantage by allowing you time and opportunity to develop your global awareness and citizenship before you enter college.
8. Engage in New and Unique Experiences
Traditionally, students move from secondary education to undergraduate studies and then directly into the workforce. Rarely is there an opportunity for experiences that are unrelated to your studies or career once you embark on this path. A gap year between high school and college provides a unique opportunity for travel, internships or work experiences that are solely based on your passions and interests. Through these opportunities, you will pursue experiences that are wholly unique to this time and place in your life and that will shape your future academic and work experiences.
9. Make New and Lasting Friendships
Until you begin college, most of your friendships have been formed through familiar circumstances: school and home community. Once you begin your undergraduate education, you will be exposed to a much larger and more diverse group of students than ever before without the safety net of familiar friends. You will also have to build new friendships from scratch. When you take a year off before starting college, you will be placed in similar situations where you need to take the initiative to form a new social circle and connect with others to create new relationships.
10. Enjoy An Unforgettable Experience
While a gap year offers many benefits to your college education, future career and sense of self, it is also simply an inimitable life experience. While you can study abroad, participate in internships, or travel for work or leisure as a college student or professional, a gap year offers a unique opportunity to pursue these experiences unencumbered by the expectations and limitations of work or school. It is a once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable experience that cannot be replicated.
If one or more of these reasons resonate with you, then a gap year might be a good fit. As you continue to grow, so do your responsibilities, so take the time now to explore the world and you.