‘Gap year’ is recently becoming very popular among U.S. students, although it was once seen as a waste of time. The advantages of taking a gap year, however, are countless.
Parents used to (and some still do) rush their children to study, take exams, go to college right after high school. As a result, teenagers often regret about the degrees they signed up for because at that age they rarely know what they want from life.
According to statistics, most students who took a year off from school are more focused in college.
Holly Bull, a president of the Center for Interim Programs, a consulting firm focused on helping students plan gap years, often speaks at gap fairs and emphasizes the benefits of time off-school. She said that time off helps students become more mature, prevents the repeated change of majors, and it makes them party less once in college.
“Low achievers, ultra-high achievers, and those in between,” can benefit from time off, to stave off burnout and indulge in a little self-discovery,” Linda H. Connelly, post-high school counselor at New Trier Township High School, said. “They want to explore what’s out there in the world. It’s a time to reflect and not at such a fast pace. Students learn a lot, it helps them figure out what they want. I see kids blossom, find their passions.”
It was wrongly assumed that taking a gap year is for those who are more financially secured because it is related to bigger expenses. Bull explained that students can either explore distant and exotic places, or go somewhere closer to home and participate in certain programs which provide lower costs in return of service. Many service-oriented programs exist out there, such as volunteering at a school for the deaf, clearing national forests, etc. They may also offer stipends, or students can work during the summer in order to pay for the costs.
If the students can spend the time travelling is, of course, the best investment as being on the road and coping with different situations by themselves does clear their minds effectively. They also gain valuable experiences and wisdom.
Such is the case of Sam Park, a 20 year-old sophomore at Indiana University who, rather than going to college right after high school, took a year off and participated in several cultural and language programs in Italy and Costa Rica, and an internship in England.
“It definitely changed my life and put me on a path,” he said.