Benefits of Taking a Gap Year

Society has prescribed a life path to which most high school and college aged individuals are expected to adhere. The majority of people believe that the correct path is a straight shot from high school, through college, perhaps even higher education, and then onto a well-paying career in their field. However, with a changing social landscape, the skyrocketing cost of higher education and a new age of self-discovery upon us, many students are choosing to incorporate bridge years or gap years into their education. This encompasses the idea that there can be benefits to taking a year off before starting in the freshman class in college, or a year between graduating from college and settling down into a career path. Both of these options, though still somewhat unconventional, can be beneficial in many respects.

Educational Benefits

It may seem counterintuitive that a year away from school could be more beneficial to your education than staying on a continuous path through high school and college, but for many that is precisely the case. What many fail to understand is that, apart from the societal construct of higher education and the expectation of a traditional path through high school, college and career, there are many paths to gaining knowledge. Education is everywhere if you are dedicated to learning. In this respect, taking a gap year can be a successful educational venture.

Continuing to seek out educational experiences during the gap year is key. Travel to a different country and experience the culture. Immerse yourself in a foreign language. Take training courses or learn a skill. Spending time out of your comfort zone and taking the initiative to experience new lifestyles and cultures can ready you for higher education. Learning does not only occur in the classroom, so use your gap year to break down the classroom walls and experience global learning.

Career Benefits

Again, taking a year off before college or before getting a long-term job in your field is often advertised as a detrimental choice. Some say that having a blank year on your resume will deter college admissions advisors and hiring committees. However, there is a significant difference between taking a gap year to improve and taking a year off to slide back. As long as you use the time efficiently and seek out new opportunities for personal and educational growth, taking a year to explore your options and engage in other opportunities can benefit your future career.

Settling into a career or going straight from high school into higher education might seem like the most secure option, but taking a gap year can benefit your future career. Not only do the educational benefits apply toward your resume, but having unique life experiences can bolster your chances of standing out from the crowd. In a time when a college degree is a base requirement for many higher-level positions, demonstrating experiences that make you a unique hire that can bring something new to the company will make for a memorable interview.

Taking a year off to watch TV and relax is not enough to benefit your career. That is the kind of year off that leads employers to question drive, motive and investment. However, making conscious decisions to seek out life experiences and opportunities that allow you to grow personally and professionally demonstrates a dedication to improving your status and your hire-ability. Take a position teaching English or a trade skill in another country. Engage in volunteer opportunities or work-trade while you travel. Especially if you can relate your gap year experiences to your chosen degree or career field, filling this gap year with beneficial experiences can improve your college applications and resumes, not damage them.

Personal Benefits

Setting yourself up for a successful path to education and a steady career is not only outwardly focused. Spending a year dedicated to improving yourself and discovering your personal passions can improve your life overall. Graduating high school, and even graduating college, your life experience will be limited. You may not be as independent as you wish to be, or you may be interested in experiencing other places and cultures outside of your straightforward life path.

Taking a gap year and dedicating the time to self-improvement and self-discovery can be cathartic. Taking time to experience different lifestyles, gain knowledge, exercise your independence, and gain more understanding of the world can change you. You have the opportunity to emerge from this gap year as a different person, ready to take on new responsibilities in school and work. Developing your personal interests, personality, and independence can improve your self-confidence and ability to succeed when you return to continue more traditional schooling or employment. This year off can also be a well-deserved and beneficial break from the constant stresses of school and work, which can benefit your personal and mental health overall.

For many people, the idea of taking a year off seems detrimental to future educational and career opportunities. The path of high school, higher education, and employment seems to be the safest and most productive method. However, the world is changing and developing with each passing year.

Taking a gap year between high school and college, or when you graduate college, can actually improve your future prospects. The catch is, you have to do it right. Taking a year off without exercising your mind or developing new skills can set you back and cause you to veer off course. Using your gap year to gain independence, skill, education, and understanding can improve your life as a whole and lead to a more successful, well-rounded future.

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