Taking a gap year during college isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it may offer surprising benefits to help you become even more successful.
Are you considering taking a gap year during college to help find yourself? Or, is a gap year something that doesn’t feel like a choice because of family commitments or mandatory military service?
Whether you’re choosing a gap year for yourself or it’s circumstantial, it’s good to know that according to the American Gap Association, students who end up taking a year off college return to school at a rate of 90%, and those students commonly obtain higher grades than their peers. And, there are many reasons to take a gap year.
If it is indeed a choice, some schools may even offer scholarships to those who take a gap year to volunteer. For example, Princeton, Tufts and Overland all have programs that support taking time off during college.
Before you take time off in the middle of college, consider these points:
1. Understand Your Intention:
Taking off a year will be something that is on your resume forever. Clearly know why you’re doing it so that when it comes up in a future employer job interview, you can explain your reasoning clearly. It is by no means a deal breaker to land a job; in fact, it could even lead to easier job placement upon graduation. Mike Nicholson, director of undergraduate degrees at Britain’s University of Oxford says, “It gives students another 15 months of growing-up time. That’s a good thing.”
2. Increased Job Performance & Placement:
88% of gap year students said that their time off added to their employability. Why? A lot of employers look for “soft skills” which are often learned during gap years through vocational programs, working abroad, or volunteering. The ability to step outside of your comfort zone, take a chance on yourself, and stay productive even during a year off of structured school work showcases your abilities as a motivated and dedicated self-starter.
3. Can Point to Your Passions:
When you are in school for so many years, it may be hard to find the time to explore new passions and hobbies. During a gap year, you may discover something new that you love to do that can actually point you in the right direction of a career to pursue.
Did You Know: In 1974, Steve Jobs took a gap year to travel? After spending months in India, he came back to America with the inspiration to change the world.
4. Learn Life Skills:
During your gap year, you can put some of your educational experience to practice and expand your life skills. For example, if you’re studying to become a teacher, you can take a year off to teach abroad. Either way, you’ll be learning life skills like independence, time management, financial responsibility, and the like during your year off. Rae Nelson, co-author of The Gap Year Advantage found that the myth of “gappers” falling behind or losing study skills is unproven. They do warn that they “don’t define a gap year as sitting around for a year on a sofa playing video games.” It’s important to make your year off count.
5. Expand Your Network:
Technological advances have made the world a connected place. This means that no matter where you go during your gap year, even if you stay local, you can create everlasting relationships that may come to help you in your business or personal life down the line. It’s nice to know people from all different walks of life because they help shape your perspective and inspire new ways of thinking and growing.
When a Gap Year is Mandatory
Sometimes, taking a year off college isn’t a choice. You may be forced to do so because of family commitments, a medical emergency, financial issues or military duty. The good news is that it’s not the end of the world.
- School will always be there
- Many online and physical universities allow you to defer a certain number of terms, so you can rejoin when you’re ready and pick up where you left off
- Will make you a better student – when you do return, you may feel more focused and determined because you took the time off
Tips before and during your gap year:
If you’ve decided that taking time off college is what’s best for you, then take some of these suggestions before and during the year to maximize your success:
1. Maintain Your Network:
More than ever, it’s easy to keep in touch because of digital connection and social networks. Stay up-to-date with your peers and/or colleagues via Facebook, LinkedIn, email, etc. and add to your network during your time off.
2. Retain Your Insurances:
It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you plan to leave, make sure to get travel insurance. Although it’s an upfront cost, if anything is to go wrong, you’ll be reimbursed and it’s really important to have medical care wherever you go.
3. Take Care of Investments/Savings:
Since you may be leaving your hometown, make sure you have a safety net in case of emergency
4. Communicate with Your University:
Many universities allow for gap years, and all you have to do to defer enrollment is let them know. For example, at the University of the People, you can be inactive for 5 or fewer terms and still re-enroll into classes when you’re ready.
Taking a year off college isn’t the end of the world. It’s likely to be a life-changing experience that can actually help you become a better and more engaged student, and provide you with skills you may have not otherwise mastered if you stayed in school straight through until graduation.
Remember to stay focused, stay curious, and remain open-minded during your time off to make the best of the time.
Still not sure? Check out this TEDx Talk from Uncollege, an organization that helps students take a gap year.