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Gap Year: Weighing the Pros and Cons

May 13 2013

Are any of your students considering taking a year off from school? If so, they are not alone in wanting to take a gap year. A gap year is basically a break from education. It can be taken at any time, but it most often occurs after graduating high school and before starting college, university or an apprenticeship. There are lots of reasons why students take a gap year. A gap year can give a burnt out student time off from studying a chance to recharge their batteries, it’s an opportunity to save money and also to gain some real-world experience. But, as usual, there are also some downsides. Before making a decision, it’s important for students to take a look at some of the pros and cons of taking a gap year.

The Pros of a Gap Year

  • A chance to mature before going back to school: Gap years can provide students the chance to learn responsibility on a different level. Whether they’re planning a trip around the world or working as a waitress, they’re going to be fending for themselves as an adult for the first time. This can be an advantage when they’re ready to start living and working on their own.
  • An opportunity to regroup: High School can be very stressful time. Between struggling to maintain their grades and searching for the right post-secondary path, many students feel burnt out by the time they graduate. Doing something besides school for awhile can provide a much-needed break.
  • A change of pace: They’ve never done anything before besides being a student. If they go right to college or university, nothing will really change. Spending a year doing something else will help them gain new perspective on life.
  • A chance to figure out what they want: Are they not sure yet what post-secondary pathway is exactly right for them at this point? A year off can help them think about it and sort things out.
  • Great Stories:  Do they want their resume or post-secondary application to stand out? If they spend a year doing something unique, they can discuss it in their personal essay on how the experience changed them.
  • Save money: It’s no secret how expensive funding a post-secondary education can be. Depending on what they do during their year off, they might be able to save money.

The Cons of a Gap Year

  • Losing momentum: For some students, a year off can be a refreshing break that helps them feel ready to go back to school. However, it also takes them away from the classroom experience, so they might be a bit rusty (or reluctant) to return.
  • Being a year behind: A year off will put them a year behind their friends and further back on what can be, a long educational process.
  • Lose focus on future goals: Taking a year off and breaking the cycle of studying may make it difficult to keep their eyes on your long-term goals.
  • Lose Money: Some gap year experiences don’t require money (like working for a year) or are inexpensive (like teaching abroad for a year). But, others can be quite pricey and can be an added expense to an already costly post-secondary education.
  • Whatever they decide, make sure they take the time to think about what they would do for their time off and their reasons for it. Taking time off to learn about life and make money is great, in theory, but vegging out on their parents couch and partying away their savings may not get them the results they hoped.

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