By: Morgan McKinney –
I feel like I covered all the bases but at the same time I feel like I’m missing something… what do you think?
You’ve done it! You’ve made it to junior year, and now you’re right in the thick of getting ready for college. Or… perhaps not. Perhaps you need a break from a twelve year streak of schooling. Perhaps you haven’t a clue where you want to be or where you want to go in life. Perhaps you’d like to attend college eventually, but grow up a little beforehand. Perhaps taking a gap year is the right plan for you.
Surprisingly enough, many people don’t know what a gap year is. It can be many things for each individual student, but quite simply it is a one year break between a student’s senior year of high school and freshman year of college. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a negative stigma surrounding the idea of taking a gap year, which is probably the reason many students don’t know or consider it an option.
Many parents or adults in general will often say that taking a gap year makes a person lazy, or that they won’t want to go back to school once the year is up. While this may be true for some, a gap year can actually be incredibly beneficial. Taking a year off between high school and college is actually very common in Europe, and has proven to really help students in the long run. What they choose to do with their time can add to their resume, provide valuable real life experience, and provide the opportunity to recharge your mind.
There are a number of things a student can do during their gap year. There are quite a few volunteer programs (links to a few of these website can be found down below) specifically created for those who take a year off, and often will cover the cost of living and travel while the volunteer does amazing service projects in foreign countries. Other students may choose to work, be it for experience purposes or to save up for those impending college fees. Another option is travelling and gaining worldly experience, for those that can afford it.
Something to keep in mind if a gap year sounds like it might be right for you is that you need a plan beforehand. It’s not smart to just take a year off with no goals in mind, or Netflix might be the only answer to “What did you do with your gap year”. This is especially important when considering applying to college your break. Many colleges are much more open to students taking a year off, and some even allow students to defer their admission so they’re less tempted to take more time off than planned. It’s good to have done something useful with your time, because a college admissions counselor is more than likely going to ask why you took a year off and what you did with it. Volunteering, working, or travelling are all much better answers than Netflix.
Of course there are also cons to taking a gap year. For some students, it can be extremely difficult to get back into the groove of academia after having absolutely nothing to do with it for a whole year. Gap years for some people have turned into decades. While your friends’ decisions should not be major factors in your own, it can be difficult to see your friends going off to school and graduating a year before you. Also, some scholarships made available only to recent high school graduates will no longer apply to you if you choose to take a gap year (although there are so many scholarships out there that all it would take is a little elbow grease and a couple Google searches to make up for it). Finally, your senior grades will matter. Many students loosen up with their grades during their senior year because they’ve already been accepted to schools, but if you’ve chosen a gap year, colleges will see all of your senior grades.
Ultimately, the biggest challenge of deciding whether a gap year is right for you is to know yourself and your habits. If you trust that you can be productive with your time and make an effort to attend college after your break, then a gap year may be just the thing for you. If you know that you don’t have the best motivation or willpower, perhaps it wouldn’t be. Talk to parents, teachers, and guidance counselors, anyone that understands you and can help you figure out what’s best for your future. Just keep in mind that going to college right away and entering the workforce are not your only two options.