Weighing the pros and cons of taking a gap year

Zoe

I’ve seen the pictures and heard the stories about my cousins’ gap years and found myself wishing I’d done that, or  even thought that it was a possibility. Taking a gap year, or a year off between high school and college, has been popular in European and other international countries for a long time. However, it has not been very popular in the United States.

Almost everyone in my family, all of whom are from New Zealand and Australia, has taken a gap year. In fact, it’s so normal over there that when I told them I wasn’t going to take one, they seemed surprised.

There are a lot of benefits to taking a gap year. It can give you a chance to experience and learn more about the world. This can happen through traveling, working or volunteering.

Although traveling can be expensive, it can be a good way to learn more about the world, other cultures and yourself. Traveling outside of the U.S. allows you to learn about other countries. It can help you later in life by setting you apart when  you apply for jobs or internships.

You can also learn more about yourself by experiencing new things. For example, traveling allows you to try new foods, meet new people, see amazing sights and try things completely out of your comfort zone. It teaches you independence and how to manage your time and money and can help you realize what is really important to you.

If you are concerned about having money to travel, you should know it is common to work for the first part of the year. It’s also common to ask for travel money at your graduation open house.

You can even spend your gap year working and making money. It’s not uncommon to get a job and focus on making money to pay tuition or to have spending money while in college. This can be helpful because it will give you more work experience and maybe help you learn more about what you do want or don’t want to do after college.

Maybe you’d enjoy volunteering. My friend traveled through eight Eastern countries on a mission trip and discovered that is what she really wants to do after college. She had great experiences and learned more about people from other countries and about herself. I know of others who have volunteered inside and outside of their home country during their gap year. That’s something else that will set you apart from others, and helping people is always a good thing.

A gap year can help you learn more about the world. You can gain experiences that you wouldn’t get by focusing only on studying. It can let you take a break and find out what you want to do after college. Because a gap year is not common in the U.S., it can set you apart from your peers and give you an edge when applying for jobs, internships, and even college.

I have begun to wonder why I didn’t take a gap year. I’ve seen what it can provide and how much my family members have enjoyed their gap years, so I am starting to wish I had taken one.


Maddie

Many students believe that taking a gap year offers benefits such as giving the brain a break from school, increasing financial stability or becoming more confident about college decisions. While there may be some benefits in taking a gap year, there are also consequences.

If a gap year is not well planned out, a student may find himself or herself spending the entire break watching reruns on Netflix and lying in bed. If one decides to take a gap year, planning out the break is important in order to use the time in a productive way. If a gap year is not well  planned and the student does nothing productive, colleges may look at the break negatively and as a waste of time, putting the position of the student’s college acceptance or financial support at risk.

Many students who take a gap year wait until after the gap year is over to commit to a college for several reasons, including that the students may change their priorities, their college choice or their major. But this could jeopardize their chance of being accepted and succeeding in higher education. With a year passing by, families are eligible for different amounts of financial aid, which could affect student’s possibility to go to a particular college.

Most colleges require students to take placement tests once they are accepted into the university. This can be more difficult for students who take a gap year because they may forget what they have learned and do poorly on the placement tests, which can affect the number of courses they need to take and for which they will be financially responsible. Because students may forget what they have learned, they may find courses more difficult than they otherwise would be. College can be stressful, and struggling in courses will only make that worse. It may take students more time to get into the habit of studying and dedicating time to reading and preparing for tests than if they had not taken a gap year because of a disruption in these patterns.

Another danger in taking a gap year is losing sight of goals for their education long term career goals. If one gets too comfortable with the gap year routine, he or she may find himself/herself losing focus on plans for college and a future career. One could begin to reject the idea of changing the daily routine in order to attend college. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a study of earnings and unemployment rates by educational attainment in 2015 shows that those who obtained a bachelor’s degree make $459 more a week than those with only a high school diploma. The decision not to attend college not only affects one’s immediate lifestyle, but it also dramatically affects one’s long-term way of life, making finances a much more stressful factor.

According to the article, “How Common Is a Gap Year?” in The Atlantic, there was a 22 percent increase in students taking a gap year between the years 2014 and 2015. As more and more students take a gap year, they need to keep in mind their plan, so they can stay on track when they come back.

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