There’s something to be valued about a strong work ethic and an unwavering commitment to the American Dream. People all across the country are told that their ticket to the good life lies in attending an institution of higher education right after completing high school. However, what about the people who aren’t sure if that’s the right path for them? What about the people who decide they want to take time away from school and find out what they are truly passionate about? This brings up the topic of the gap year.
People who take gap years do so for a wide variety of reasons. It could be that they aren’t financially ready for college, or perhaps they want to do some volunteering and traveling first. It could be that their family fell on hard times so they chose to take a year off and help their family first. There is no right answer to why people choose to do a gap year.
Every person’s situation is unique to them, and their reasoning is always different. However, no one should be judged for taking a gap year.
I myself am taking a gap year between undergraduate and graduate studies. I needed to get myself financially stable, and also develop myself more as a professional before I felt ready to attend graduate school. It’s been an eye-opening and admittedly refreshing time. At first, I was full of regret and shame for taking a gap year. There is nothing wrong with a gap year. In fact, it can be quite beneficial.
I had the chance to participate in a Twitter chat recently specifically about gap years, and I learned quite a lot from Andrea Wien, author of “Gap to Great: A Parent’s Guide to the Gap Year”. In her book, she conducted research on students who decided to do a gap year between high school and college. She found that gap year students came back more prepared for college, more focused, and partied less than their peers who went straight into college. She also found that many colleges are willing to work with students to offer them gap year deferments.
The issue is that many students don’t even know that this is an option. That’s why I want to start having this conversation.
Normalizing the idea of a gap year could be helpful to multitudes of students. I personally was pushed into college by society and had no idea what I really wanted to do. I changed majors five times, and transferred schools. I was fortunate enough to be able to find my path eventually, but that isn’t always the case. Students need to know that they don’t have to go straight into college, or straight into graduate school. Teach them about gap years, what they mean, how it works, and how it can be helpful. I strongly recommend the book I read earlier for those who want more research on the topic. Talk with your circle about gap years, and get the conversations started. Having those talks can help start to normalize it, and perhaps we can make it so that a gap year is another option on the list.