Give me a break

Doubtful man asking questions to himself

Is taking a gap year after graduation a good idea?

By Samantha Kupiainen

When I graduated high school, I never questioned that college would immediately follow. During the mammoth amount of meetings I had with my high school guidance counselor and my parents about my post-high school endeavors, the thought of taking a gap year was never voiced.

A gap year is defined as “a semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to a career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional and personal awareness,” according to The Gap Year Association.

And indeed, there are other options besides immediately pursuing a bachelor’s degree, attending technical school or joining the workforce. Taking a year off from school can be beneficial in many ways. Is it right for you? Explore the idea by weighing these pros and cons.

You learn a lot about money management. I knew nothing about applying for loans or saving money when I enrolled in college. I relied heavily on my parents for financial literacy.

For former Key Clubber Katherine Shir of Indianapolis, Indiana, taking a gap year helped her learn more about bills, credit and earning money. She had to make sure she was financially prepared to fund her gap-year travels and pay for her bachelor’s degree when she returned from overseas.

Traveling plans

You find a new appreciation for school. After 12 years in the classroom, it’s reasonable for high school grads to feel a little burnt out. It can be mentally and physically exhausting attending school for eight hours a day, 180 days a year. Shir worked during her gap year to fund her travels and quickly realized that a career in food management or retail wasn’t something she wanted for the rest of her life. She grew to appreciate her education during her year outside the classroom and was happy to return to a school routine.

You have the opportunity to mature. Neuroscientists suggest that most people aren’t fully mature until 25 years old. Immediately after high school, some grads might not yet know what they are passionate about and want to study at university. According to Chris Munchel, executive director of Admissions and Orientation at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, students who take gap years build skills, grow personally and professionally and gain a better understanding of their passions, goals and interests.

Nervous college student 1

It can be difficult learning how to be a student again. Once a 12-year-old routine is broken, it can be hard to get back into the mix. And skills honed in economics, English composition or algebra can start to fade, making returning to a structured academic routine even more challenging. According to Munchel, students who decide on a gap year take the risk of falling behind their peers in educational and professional pursuits.

Tuition isn’t getting any cheaper … Typically, education-related costs increase each year. Taking a year off is also taking the risk of paying more for your education. Munchel reports that gap years also pose the possibility of forfeiting scholarships and financial aid.

… But a gap year can give your college application a boost. Depending on what you do with your gap year, the experiences you gain can add depth to your application and help you stand out from other applicants.

“It can provide additional information that strengthens applications when looking at interests and involvement,” Munchel says.

Interested in exploring gap-year possibilities? Start with these links:


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