Demystifying the advantages of a gap year
Every young adult is faced with an endless list of goals: graduating school, going to college, doing internships, and getting a job. But what about taking time for yourself? or discovering who you are? What are your beliefs and values? In this endless race, where is the time to pause to self reflect? To think about your relationship with the larger community?
The answer while it may seem daunting, could be a gap year. The Gap Year Association defines as gap year as “a semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.” The most important ingredient in making a gap year successful is that the student must take ownership for their experience.
A survey by the Gap Year Association in 2015 showed that students who take a gap year reported feeling enriched by the experience. They reported behaviours of development, personal reflection, increased maturity and self-confidence, advanced communication skills and global engagement. Some of these experiences take place through volunteering experiences that teach empathy and interconnectedness. Sometimes these opportunities could also be exploring a new area of interest like travel to understand different cultures. Placing yourself in new environments outside your home, expands your understanding of the world and your purpose.
Even if you are not concerned with your personal development but are more interested in your academic development, a gap year could help you. Joe O’Shea’s research shows that students who deferred their admission to college reported similar academic scores to students who didn’t. Additionally, O’Shea reported that taking a gap year had a significant positive impact on students’ academics, particularly those with lower academic scores. A gap year helps students find their internal motivators, rather than being monitored by external deadlines. Students learn skills such as teaching themselves, adapting to new environments and can hone their already existing talents.
More than anything, students learn how to rely on themselves and how to engage and adapt to different circumstances. A gap year could help young adults in their careers too. Students create increased ownership of their own life’s trajectory, find purpose, and are perceived to be ‘more mature, more self-reliant and independent’ (Rose Birch and Miller, 2007). While these characteristics are extremely appealing to recruiters, it also creates opportunities for the student to find a path to entrepreneurship and self-employment. By learning skills of self motivation and regulation, a student is more poised to become an entrepreneur.
Taking a gap year is an extremely personal decision, dependent on your circumstances and desires. It is imperative that whether you decide to continue your academic journey or not, that you find time to develop your relationship with yourself, reflect on your values and your purpose.
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