Is a Gap Year Right for Me?
Whether you just finished high school or your degree, you’re probably thinking about what comes next. Maybe you have a job in mind or a field that interests you. Or perhaps you’re thinking about going back to school. For high school graduates, it’s often the most obvious and expected path to take. Indeed, around 66.2% of recent grads immediately enroll in college. Comparatively, 63% of bachelor’s degree recipients enroll in grad school within twelve months after graduation. But if you’re not quite ready to commit to two to four more years of studying yet, you may have considered a gap year.
A gap year refers to a break in an educational journey between graduation and re-enrollment. Notably, more and more students are considering or taking this break compared to just five years ago. In 2018, only around 3% took a gap year versus 20% in 2020. Among the most obvious causes is the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced most students off campus.
Other reasons include wanting to explore the world, family responsibilities, current job situation, feeling unready for college, and financial struggles. While the number of gap year students stabilized as universities reopened, the benefits of a gap year remain the same.
Reasons to Consider a Gap Year
Truly, taking a year off studying after spending their entire childhood in school sounds ideal to many. They don’t want to bounce from classroom to classroom without a chance to breathe and get to know the world. Indeed, figuring out what career you want can feel impossible if you don’t know what’s out there. Others want to get it out of the way as soon as possible.
However, there are many benefits to taking a gap year. Keep reading to learn more.
1. Recover After Highschool (or an Undergraduate Degree)
For some, high school is the best time of their life. For most, it’s one of the more stressful periods. Both types of individuals can benefit from a gap year. Namely due to the fact that once you’re in college, you lose a lot of your free time.
Around 70% of all college students work part-time or full-time. They must attend lectures and labs to remain in good standing. Then, they still must study for quizzes and exams, write papers, complete assignments, and keep up on their reading. Additionally, most want to maintain and expand their social lives. They attend parties, join clubs, start sports, and forge new friendships. On top of all that, most scholarships and financial aid mandate that students attend school full-time, or they’ll lose some or all of their funding.
Students can’t cut back on schoolwork, or they won’t make tuition, and they can’t stop working, or they won’t have money for necessities and fun. Basically, college students have very little free time on their hands.
Thus, giving yourself a year to recover and prepare for higher education is good. A gap year can be vital to managing your mental health and ensuring you are ready to enroll.
2. See the World
Seeing the world can mean different things to different people. Realistically, few people can afford to backpack through Europe or fly to several countries. But if you can, take the opportunity before you have to accrue PTO or hope your vacation is approved at a job.
Alternatively, try exploring what is accessible to you. Many areas have hidden treasures like national parks, unique museums, and other tourist attractions. Notably, you can even try things like cooking or dance classes, local fairs, and events like paint-and-sips. You can try something you always put off, weren’t old enough for, or were afraid to try. These sorts of places can introduce you to diverse people and ideas.
As another option, you may have family somewhere you can ask to stay with to avoid hefty hotel fees. You get to visit people you haven’t seen in years while also exploring the area they live in. They may even know of places that aren’t advertised to tourists!
3. Gain Work Experience & Save for Tuition
You can also gain work experience during your gap year, which can have its own surprising benefits once you enroll. For example, some universities offer prior learning assessments, which allow students to use real-life experiences to earn certain course credits.
Other benefits include learning what you do and don’t like in a work environment. This information allows you to make a better decision about your major and desired job. For example, perhaps you wanted a customer-facing position at first. Then, after working in customer service, you realize it’s not for you. While a degree requirement blocks you out of some fields, you may be able to work or volunteer in areas like animal welfare, education, childcare, administration, or parks and recreation.
Also, you get the advantage of being able to save for tuition. This benefit comes two-fold: you may qualify for additional financial aid from your work experience, and, depending on your situation, you might build up your college fund. Namely, you’ve probably seen companies advertising tuition reimbursement for their employees. These companies want their employees to attend school and take higher-level positions.
On the other hand, some scholarships and grants mandate recipients have experience or skills related to a field. Some funders have special interests and want to take care of students with the same passion. Thus, they help pay for tuition for those who meet their requirements.
4. Pursue Your Passion
Sometimes the best use of a gap year is self-discovery. Most people do not turn their passion into a career but prefer to pursue it in their free time. Indeed, making your hobby your job can make it less enjoyable. Some lose interest or are burnt out after work.
Additionally, as we stated, many college students don’t get much time for themselves. If you have a hobby you want to pursue, like art, music, writing, etc., you can use this period to improve your craft. Alternatively, maybe you haven’t discovered your passion yet. College can be a great time for that, as you can take unique elective courses and meet new people. But a gap year allows you to explore off-campus and without hours of homework to get through.
5. Explore Your Options
Finally, a gap year allows you to explore your options. As you try out different fields, travel, and get to know yourself, you might realize that your ideal job doesn’t need a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Maybe you can thrive with your high school diploma or a certificate or associate degree. Perhaps you would actually prefer trade school.
Alternatively, most students change their college major at least once while enrolled. This statistic to due to various reasons, including realizing they don’t enjoy the content, discovering their true passion, or recognizing a field just isn’t the right fit. With a gap year, you may be able to find your calling before enrolling. By doing so, you’ll save yourself time and money as you won’t waste time on courses irrelevant to your degree.
You may also find that you want to move to a new town, state, or even country during this time. Unfortunately, you often lose credits when transferring to a new college. If you realize you want to move ahead of time, you can save yourself the pain of retaking basic classes.
Overall, a lot can change in a year, especially when you’re fresh out of high school. The things you wanted when you were fifteen won’t be the same things you want as an adult. And they shouldn’t be. Your passions and interests can change as you become more independent and learn about yourself. A gap year helps individuals make better choices and earn better grades during their college careers.
Lakewood University is an accredited online school that offers a variety of degree and certificate programs. We have rolling enrollments and asynchronous courses. In other words, you don’t have to worry about missing a lecture or running late to class. If you plan on enrolling in college while working, Lakewood University offers the flexibility you need to earn your degree.
Don’t hesitate – reach out to our admissions department today to learn more!