Taking a gap year before going to college is gaining popularity among high school graduates. This is more so during the current pandemic, as so many students are preferring to wait till life gets back to normal and the real on-campus experience returns.
Everyone has their own reasons for taking a gap year. Many would use this time to relax before they head to hectic college life, others would like to accomplish things they couldn't earlier, for instance, travelling and a few may have no option other than just to take one. Whatever your reason might be, there is no mould that fits any path, and how worthwhile your gap year may be will depend on what you make of it.
Not only ‘weak’ students take gap years!
Gap years are often misperceived as only for academically weak students who need time to bolster their grades and college applications. Students take gap years for several reasons and, the top institutes like MIT and Harvard are now encouraging more students to take one and also allow accepted students to defer their entries.
“No one ever regrets having taken a gap year, but plenty of people regret not having taken one.”, says Matt McGann, former director of admissions at MIT.
Sure, this statement may have its share of exceptions, but it remains true in most cases. Even if you don't end up doing everything you planned, you may have learned more about yourself and gotten to take a breather.
How do I plan a gap year?
Being intuitive and figuring out things along the way is fine-but that does not negate the value of planning, for it may help you decide whether a gap year is right for you.
You don’t need to have a rigid schedule spanning an entire year but try having a picture of what you expect to do.
Here are a few ideas on what you can do:
- You can find loads of internship and volunteer opportunities both remote and office-based. We also have some cool opportunities at ZNotes you may want to check out :).
- If you are looking for students in the same situation as you to experience the year and seem to have the resources, consider signing up for gap year programs such as Real Gap Experience and Year Out Group.
- Enrol in part-time courses and learn stuff you might have always wanted to but couldn't quite find the time, such as coding or a new language! Or maybe, you can join a training program and gain practical skills such as carpentry and automobile mechanics.
- With places slowly opening after the pandemic, travelling may also be viable depending upon your finances.
- Consider if you want to retake examinations or gain additional qualifications in case you do decide to go to university.
The grass is always greener on the other side.
While taking up a gap year may look tempting, it isn’t necessarily a smooth joy ride. Seeing your former classmates enjoy their college life and you experiencing that one year later may give a sense of being left behind. But who knows, your friends might be equally envious of your position.
Gap years may not always go the way you hope. You may feel pressurised due to apparently letting an entire year slip away if the year doesn't match your expectations. Or perhaps, you may find it hard to get back into the groove. Whatever the result is, you've already made your decision and even if there are moments you regret, you cannot change them. Try to treat yourself with kindness and to look at whatever you've gained-even if it's just learning how to make better choices.
Um, so should I take a gap year?
A gap year may give you the space to grow as a person, get a headstart in the professional world, and develop your skill-sets. In many cases, it may prevent you from having academic burnout, possibly helping you perform better at university than you otherwise would. And often, the resultant self-awareness may help you connect more closely to yourself. But just like everything else, gap years come at a price and you are the best to judge if there are any benefits you can yield from them.