A gap year is a term or when students take time off between high school and college/university. The time off can be anything from a semester to a few years. It can be planned as in a student wants to travel or do an internship or just take a break to rest etc. or unplanned as in the case of a health issue or family emergency. If you’re thinking about taking a gap year, here are some pros and cons to consider.
Pros of taking a gap year
Gain a better sense of self and the world
So much of the school years are spent doing what you’re told and what is required of you. It’s all about assignments and grades and getting into a good university. There is almost no time to get to know you and to understand the world. Taking a break from running on this endless hamster wheel will allow you to learn more about yourself. It will help you see and hopefully understand more of the world and the challenges people are facing in a way that just rushing off to the next required school thing does not allow.
It’s a way to recharge your batteries and discover your passions
The school years have no break, it’s just moving from one class to the next for years on end and doing what you’re told. A gap year is a much-needed break and opportunity to unwind and just take a breather. The time after high school is an opportunity to rest, recharge your batteries, reflect on your accomplishments thus far and think about what you want for the future. Not what is expected of you and what you should do, but what you really want to do. It’s an opportunity to discover and hopefully make plans to pursue your passions.
A chance to get a clearer idea of your future career path and learn new things
A gap year can provide an opportunity for those who are unsure about their career path to make a more informed decision.
It is also an opportunity to pursue varied interests that may or may not be linked to your future career ambitions. It’s an opportunity to pursue your passion and try things that may lead to a career. An example would be starting a YouTube channel and learning to film and edit your own videos. You may or may not use it in your career, either way, it is an opportunity to develop great skills and make things.
A minor break from capitalism
It goes without saying that there is no escaping capitalism (for now), but a gap year in which you’re not working is the closest you can come to it. This downtime is also an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, work on your hobbies and travel (if you can). You can just read, develop your skills, learn new things, and volunteer in your community without having to worry about making a living (if you’re lucky, really lucky).
It’s an opportunity to reject at least for a moment the capitalist idea that you must constantly be doing things and must be “productive” at all times. There is more to life than doing what the kings of Silicon Valley and every two-bit motivational speaker deems productive. So much more.
Cons (and fears)
You risk losing motivation
The chances of this are low though. 90% of the people who take a gap year with the intention of going back to school at the end of it do so. Could you be among the 10% who don’t Maybe, but who’s to say that is a wrong choice?
Fear you’ll be left behind
In this hypercompetitive world, taking any kind of break from the grind leaves one with the justifiable fear of being left behind by your peers and de facto competitors. This reinforces the idea that there is a timeline, and you are in some sort of competition which is an unfortunate way to go through life. There is no time by which you should be married with children, a house, a car, and two adopted dogs.
Risk of wasting time
There is the fear that you could lose yourself in a loop of having free time, falling behind, and wasting precious time. The idea that you’re only using your time productively when you’re doing what is sanctioned by capitalist society is problematic. Is it possible to waste time? Yes. But who really determines what wasting time is?
This risk is easily mitigated through planning and setting expectations and outcomes of the gap year. By realistically planning and creating a loose structure for your break, you are more likely to maximize the time. It requires a plan to be a successful experience so it really should not be a spontaneous decision.
You risk finding yourself alone
All your friends are taking different paths and some of them may be taking similar paths. You may feel left out of your previous circle and may end up experiencing loneliness. This can be remedied by anticipating it and staying in touch with your friends even if you are not in each other’s immediate circles.
People may not understand your decision
Your parents, friends, relatives, and teachers may not understand it which can be a source of added pressure and emotional stress. Older people are less likely to be open to or supportive of the idea of a gap year. It is likely to be more stressful if you have to live with your parents or guardians while “wasting a year.“
It can be expensive
If a gap year involves travel and exploration, or some other hobby it could be costly. If you’re not working, it means being dependent on your parents or guardians which they may view as a wasted year. This is why gap years are largely perceived as a privilege afforded to the wealthy few.
So what’ll it be, to gap year or not to gap year?