A gap year means taking an intentional break from your academic pursuit to work on your personal growth and development. It’s just like taking a sabbatical, but in this case, you’re taking time away from your studies.
The idea of taking gap years started in the UK and spread to other parts of Europe and Australia. It’s now a common practice in the US and other countries.
Taking a gap year doesn’t mean you are dropping out of school. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy or irresponsible. That’s not how gap years work. It simply means you are taking a little time off to recharge and return with a bang!
How Long is a Gap Year?
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There are no rules that determine the duration of a gap year. Contrary to what you may believe, a gap year mustn’t run for one year. It all depends on your reason for taking a gap year. Your gap year could mean taking a semester off, a few weeks away from school, or one year or more.
As much as it depends on you, make sure your gap year has a defined timeline and goals. Remember, this is not an opportunity to skip school and go on a vacation. You must account for the time spent in your gap year, or you’ll spend an entire year doing nothing.
When Can You Take a Gap Year?
Like we said earlier, these things are not cast in stone. You can take a gap year when it feels like the right time. That’s just how gap years work. However, you can take advantage of some natural breaks in your education and career timeline. You can take a gap year:
1. After High School
This is the most popular time to take a gap year. That’s because not everyone is ready to run off to college immediately after high school. You may use that as an opportunity to get some real-life experience that will help you ease into college life.
2. During College
Sometimes, schoolwork can become overwhelming, and you may feel the need to take a break. You may be struggling in your area of study and find yourself rethinking your career choices. You can decide to stay away for a semester to cool off and readjust your career goals.
3. After College
This works with the same logic as taking a gap year after high school. It’s like saying, “Finally! Now, I can take a break!”
Some students see it as an opportunity to prepare themselves for life after school. Others see it as their last chance for a grand adventure before joining the rat race of the corporate world.
Whichever way you see it, a gap year may be the right move for you. You can also use that as an opportunity to gain a little experience that will boost your resume.
What Can You Do During Your Gap Year?
Your gap year should have a defined goal or purpose. It’s an opportunity to build your skills, develop yourself and explore. So, for that gap year to work, you must have a game plan. If you’ve always wanted to travel, that’s your chance to explore the world. Learn how to swim or drive. Go hiking, skiing, para-gliding, horse riding, skydiving, zip-lining, surfing, bungee jumping, etc.
You can decide to work on your career development. Get an internship, volunteer for nonprofits, learn a soft skill, and enrol on an online course or training. You can put your flair for languages to the test. Enrol in a language school and learn a foreign language.
You can even do a mix of everything. Have fun while working on yourself. You can never go wrong with that.
Factors to Consider Before Taking a Gap Year
Here are some important questions you need to ask before taking a gap year.
▪What are your goals and intentions for taking time off?
▪︎What do you want to achieve with this gap year?
▪︎What is your budget? How much will it cost you to take a gap year?
▪︎Do you have the funds and resources to support yourself during your gap year?
▪︎Do you have dependents? How will your gap year affect them?
▪︎If you’re in school, can you defer your admission, scholarships, and financial aid?
▪︎If you’re employed, will your employer allow you to take significant time off, or will you need to quit your job?
▪︎Will you feel bad if you return and find that your peers are now ahead of you?
The Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year
Just like every other thing in life, gap years have their advantages and disadvantages. So, before you jump on that gap experience, think long and hard about it. Don’t just do it because it’s the norm or because your friends are doing it.
Everyone has a different path in life. What may have worked for your friends, may not work for you. Think about your intentions, goals, and the factors listed above before making that decision.
Here are some pros and cons you must consider.
Taking a gap year allows you to rest from all that school work. You’ve been on the treadmill from a younger age. It’s been from one level of education to the next; kindergarten, nursery school, primary, secondary, and now the University. That monotonous academic routine comes with a lot of pressure and can make you burn out. It won’t hurt to take a break to realign your purpose and rejuvenate yourself before moving on to the next stage of your life.
With that time, you can reassess your career path, gain field experience and gain new life skills. This will go a long way to improving your academic prowess and career development. The skills, training, and experiences acquired during a gap year can beef up your resume. You may also get great recommendations that will improve your chances of getting a new job, financial aid, or scholarship.
According to research by the Gap Year Association, 96% of gap year students improved their self-confidence, and 93% developed good communication skills. 84% of the students gained skills for their career advancement and 75% even got a job during their gap year.
Just so you know. This research also revealed that 90% of college students returned to school after their gap year. Again, it all depends on you. If you are determined and know what you want, you won’t lose focus.
Now, we have highlighted the perks. Let’s talk about the opportunity cost of your decision to take a gap year.
The major concern for anyone who wants to take a gap year is the financial implication. Taking time off means you will be off school and work. You won’t be earning as much as you used to. And if your parents aren’t buying the idea of a gap year, that means no monthly allowance for you. So, you need to prepare a backup plan to help you sustain yourself and pay your bills during that period.
Returning to school after a gap year isn’t always a smooth transition. You’ve taken a mental break, and you’re ready to swing back to your studies with a renewed vigour. However, you need to pace yourself and ease your transition back to school. It may take you a while to adjust to the school environment and study routine. It could cause a lag in your academic performance.
That’s one reason students who take gap years are at the risk of dropping out. Some students get frustrated and decide to leave.
According to the Wall Street Journal, approximately 10% of students who take a gap year do not return to school afterwards.
Don’t let that be your story. Whatever happens, don’t be too hard on yourself. Keep working on your grades, and you will improve with time.
Also, a gap year will take you a step back in school. When you return to school, your classmates will be a class ahead of you, which means they will most likely graduate before you. You would have to make new friends amongst your junior colleagues. You may feel lonely and out of place. Are you sure you can deal with that? That’s the price you have to pay.
Taking a gap year can be a life-changing experience for you, but don’t be quick to make that decision. Think it through and weigh your options. Remember, the goal is not to discontinue your education. The goal is to recharge and come back with a bang!
While you enjoy your gap year, we can help you secure a foreign admission to your dream school. We are just a call away. Schedule a call with us today.