The number of students opting to take a gap year after college is on the rise. According to a survey by the American Gap Association, they found that enrollment in respondents’ programs climbed 27 percent from 2012 to 2013. These numbers continue to grow. While many college bound teens prepare to start their new adventure as a college student, others plan to travel, work, volunteer or experience something other than school. Is this a good idea? If done right, yes. However, like anything else, there are pros and cons to weigh when making this decision.
To some a gap year may look like a bad or lazy decision. They may see it as the student not being ready to commit to education and their future in turn saying they are not yet ready to grow up. Parents usually have a path laid out in their mind that their student will graduate high school and shortly after attend college in the fall. There is fear as a parent that if your child takes a year off they could get in the habit of work life or traveling and they may never end up going to college at all. Parents also have to think about how this gap year will be funded. To them, it could be like adding a fifth year of college tuition to their bill.
While there are some negative things to think about when deciding if a gap year is right for you, there are far more positives. Taking that year off before college can allow you to grow and mature into an adult and get real life experience under your belt. Whether that is through traveling, volunteering, or working, you will have something that the other freshman don’t when you do start college. Possibly the most compelling argument for taking a gap year is to prevent burnout. It will give you a chance to take a break from the rigorous school work you’re used to and give you time to recharge and find your passion. It will also allow you to explore different interests which will help you decide your major and career path later on. Professors will appreciate your new found worldly knowledge and your ability to incorporate it in the classroom, as well as your willingness and motivation to learn.
If you think a gap year is right for you, it is important to have a plan. You can’t just sit around and get a part time job that isn’t going to take you anywhere. There are so many different programs and opportunities for teens and young adults to make a difference in the world and better themselves in the process. Some of these programs include Carpe Diem Education, Projects Abroad, and City Year. These programs promote taking a year off before starting school and give you the tools you need to succeed.
Some universities encourage students to take a gap year and promote programs that allow them to do so. Among these are top universities like Princeton and Harvard, often offering scholarships to students who have taken a gap year. Recently, Tufts University started offering a bridge year service learning program. This program sends a group of incoming freshmen on a year of volunteer work before starting the traditional four-year college experience. The program also includes academic content and teaching of civil and leadership skills. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is another school that offers a gap year program. The UNC program is called the Global Gap Year Fellowship and it awards $7,500 to seven early admissions students who will spend their gap year committed to service abroad.
With more and more students electing a gap year over college right out of high school, one has to take a look at why this trend is on the rise. A gap year may not be right for everyone, but after reading up on all the different opportunities and the pros and cons, you should be able to make the decision for yourself.