Do you find yourself sitting at home thinking, what am I going to do after high school? Are you unsure of majors or what to study, what university to attend, or even a career path? A gap year (a year between high school and college where you take a break from school) might be the right decision for you. While many might picture a gap year as the time for relaxation and aimless wanderlust, it can be used as a period of internal exploration, volunteering, uncovering future possibilities, and so much more.
Of course, there are pros and cons to consider with any big decision, and gap years are no exception. To shed some light, we've detailed a few factors that can potentially come when taking a break from school.
Pro: save money for university
College life can be expensive, so spending time working and saving money to assist with future living costs while at university is an excellent use of your gap year. When you're on your own for the first time, removing anything that adds pressure on your shoulders is a great idea, and finances are among them!
Con: risk losing your academic momentum
The best-case scenario from taking a break from school is returning to your studies with vigor and motivation. The worst-case scenario is losing academic momentum completely. Before deciding on a gap year, take time to reflect on your personality and consider if taking such a long break will work for you.
Pro: submit a more impressive application
For example, are you interested in art history, architecture, theater programs, etc.? Spend your gap year exploring things like architectural cultures, various theater programs, volunteering at museums, etc., and use your college application essay to emphasize how your experience influenced you.
Con: you might feel like you're falling behind
If you decide on a gap year, your friends might be established in their university life by the time you arrive. So from a personal standpoint, you can feel off-pace. From a professional perspective, taking a year out can add an extended period to an already lengthy educational process, resulting in missing out on an early start in your career.
Pro: gain professional experience before heading to university
If you decide to make your gap year about work experience, either through a job, an internship, or a volunteer program, you can gain meaningful professional exposure. An added benefit is you'll make connections and understand the profession's daily tasks. You may even get a better idea of what careers you want or do not want to pursue.
Con: missed opportunities with friends
You could miss the excitement and bonding of starting university together, trips during spring break, and graduation. On the flip side, there are possibilities to meet new people during your gap year as well.
Pro: make a difference
If you design your gap year around community service or volunteering, this provides you with transferable skills, empathy, and a sense of understanding a world outside of your own. These insights are priceless when you decide to study in a host country with a culture that might differ from your life experiences thus far.
Con: requires extra planning
With so much flexibility and various ways to personalize your gap year, you'll have to consider the amount of planning this will take. It may be a break from university decisions, but it will not be a break from making many other choices. After your gap year, you don't want to look back and realize that the most productive thing you did was binge-watch Netflix. So if a gap year is the route you're headed, get ready to plan the next 12 months!
Pro: build life skills
You probably filled your time in high school with routine, but a gap year will likely come with more flexibility and responsibility — the increase of both forces you to mature quickly. During this time, you may find yourself setting and maintaining a budget, grocery shopping, doing laundry, creating a schedule for your responsibilities, etc. This will help you adjust more quickly when you're away at university without the support of friends or family nearby.
Con: people might not understand your decision
You may find that not everyone will support your gap year decision. Parents might worry that you'll never get to college, and friends might fear they'll lose touch. A great way to combat your opposition is to prove that you've done your research and you're not making this choice lightly.
Like most major life decisions, there are advantages and disadvantages, and just because something works for one person doesn't guarantee it will work for you. Think carefully, do your research, and go into it with your eyes wide open. This shouldn't be a decision you jump into because you're tired of studying for tests or indecisive about your future. Think long and hard about what you're going to do so that when you look back, you've used your time productively.