Why It Might Be a Good Idea for You to Take a Gap Year

There's a societal expectation that we should go right to college after graduating from high school—but what if you're not ready?

Many people feel this way, and that's why an increasing number of high school students are taking gap years. This has especially become popular since the pandemic switched to online learning. Students don't want to do their first semester of college online, so they're looking for other options. The Gap Year Association defines a gap year as "a semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and before career or post-secondary education, to deepen one's practical, professional, and personal awareness." There are different types of gap years like travel, volunteer, work, study or a combination of any options listed. For example, you can travel to a different country to study a foreign language. You can also take a gap year without a specific goal in mind.

Due to the nature of the pandemic, traditional gap years may not be an option. However, there are many online internships, and in-person gap years may become an option again shortly. Most schools even allow you to defer your admission for a year, so you can guarantee that your dream school will still be an option. Here are five years you may want to consider a gap year.

It Will Save You from Academic Burnout

Oxford Learning defines burnout as "the build-up of stress over time that results in feeling overwhelmed and a lack of control." Burnout results in a lack of motivation and negatively impacts students' wellbeing. While some students can go directly to college after graduation, others may be experiencing burnout from years of academic-related stress. Usually, students will force themselves to work through the burnout and go to college anyway, but that can lead to a negative college experience. It may better to take a gap year to give yourself a mental break from academic stress in this situation. Once you have time to reset and experience life outside of school, you will feel more motivated and ready to go back to academia.

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You Learn Important Life Skills

Some things can't be taught in a classroom; they need to be lived to be learned. A gap year can provide you with opportunities to gain special skills for the type of gap year you have chosen. Travel gap years can give you knowledge of other cultures and teach you new languages. Work internship will introduce you to people who work directly in that field and teach you how to navigate the workspace. Volunteer programs may show you how to be more empathetic and how to work with a team. The unique skills you acquire can be applied to any area of your life.

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It Gives You Time to Figure Out What You Want to Do

It is common for students to change their major once, twice or even three times once they are in school. It's even more common that people graduate with a major they don't ever use because they are interested in a different career field. While there are many factors, this is common because we don't have time to figure out our interests. We are deciding while applying to school, but our interests change over time. A gap year can offer you time to explore many different options and expose you to new worlds. You could realize that you're in love with ancient Greek history while traveling to Greece. You might try an internship and decide that it's not the right career choice for you. You don't have to figure out your major in one year completely and you may still switch majors—that's okay. It just allows you to explore more and narrow down your field of interest.

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You'll Meet Interesting People

You can meet interesting people and create meaningful connections during a gap year. You have more opportunities to meet people that you may never have the chance to meet at college. You may have a chance to befriend people from different cultures and backgrounds, which will expose you to new ways of thinking and open your eyes to different perspectives. You might forge a fantastic work-connection at your job that will be an excellent reference for your resume. Of course, you meet exciting and diverse people at college, but this is a chance to introduce yourself to more people outside of an academic setting.

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You'll Learn About Yourself

A gap year gives you a chance to slow down and check in with yourself. It's a time of reflection that allows you to explore the world within you and the world outside of you. You can really figure out who you are and who you want to be without the constraints of a classroom or teachers' expectations. It's unreasonable to believe you're going to "find" yourself. That's a life-long journey, but it gives you time to start the process.

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Whenever (or if) you decide you want to go to college, it can be stressful to figure out which school is right for you. HERE are a few questions to ask yourself before committing to a college.