Taking a gap year isn’t for everyone, but it can help you gain some valuable life experiences and learn new things about yourself. I don’t know about you, but I was expected to go straight from high school to college. I even took courses at my local community college during my senior year to help get a head start and save my parents some money.
In high school, I had a part-time job, played sports, volunteered, and took college classes on top of my already full schedule. I wanted a break! As adult as I was, I was still a kid, and I wanted to take full advantage of that before I had to officially become a “grown-up.”
My parents DID NOT want me to take time off before going to college, but it’s my life, right? So, we sat down and talked through the pros and cons.
Here is the list I used to help me make my decision.
I hope it helps you, too!
Let’s start with the Pros
Save some money.
Taking a year off to work and save money can really help you out in the long run. You can reduce the number of student loans you’ll need to cover your education, which means you’ll have less debt when you graduate.
You might even find a new path or career interest that will change your original college plans.
Taking time off can help you find things you’re passionate about. You can use your time to find a job or volunteer opportunities in that field and see if it’s something you can see yourself doing.
This will help you decide what programs or schools to look into when you finish your gap year.
Universities and Colleges encourage it.
Some schools offer incentives to students who have taken a gap year. If you’ve had the opportunity to travel to different areas of the world and gain new experiences, you could bring a lot of value to school programs and classroom discussions.
Get a better understanding of the world.
Whether it’s community service, volunteer work, working full time, or taking some time to travel around, all of these things will give you more insight into the workings of the world.
Life experiences can really open your eyes to new things and help you develop more knowledge of the world around you.
Build up your resume.
Sometimes work experience is not the only thing needed to help your resume stand out. Maybe you can find an opportunity to work on a farm overseas for your room and board costs.
Maybe you can go to another country to teach English. Maybe you can volunteer at your local animal shelter. The possibilities are endless. These experiences will really help your resume stand out.
Pursue your passion and expand your network.
As you are exploring yourself to find out what you are passionate about, you will likely find others with similar interests. This is a great time to start building your network.
A person’s network consists of their professional relationships and people they have met along their path. It’s also a great way to help find a job or mentor later on, as people generally like to help others that share the same interests.
Now for the Cons…
Taking a year off can cause you to lose your momentum. It’s like riding a bike uphill, if you get enough momentum, you can make it to the top. But if you stop halfway, you might not be able to ride back up, and you’ll end up walking your bike instead.
It’s not a perfect analogy, but you can lose your drive and become unmotivated to continue your education.
It can be expensive.
If you are someone who wants to spend their time traveling the world, then you will need to find means to pay for those travel experiences. Trust me, they aren’t always cheap!
Although there are programs created for this, it can cost upwards of $20,000! And if you’re anything like me, you’re not going to want the cheapest package, so the cost would be quite a bit higher.
Might regret it.
After deciding to take some time off, it might not be what you expected.
What if it’s a waste of time? What if you can’t afford it or you change your mind? By that point, you’d have to wait for the next school year to get started on your education.
Falling behind your peers.
By taking this time off, you could fall behind your peers. One year off could put you 24-36 credits behind your classmates. Basically, you would have a lot of catching up to do.
It could be even more intimidating when you enter the workforce behind your peers. They might end up ahead of you. Maybe even being your boss.
You’ve heard it a thousand times, college is important, and it’s a major commitment. But, so is a gap year. Regardless of what you decide to do, you need to fully commit. If you decide to take a gap year, make the best of your time off, explore the world, learn a new trade, save your money to avoid going into too much debt.
If you decide to keep your momentum and continue straight to college, give it your all. The decisions you make now will form who you’re going to be. Make yourself great!