The “Gap Year” is a relatively new concept we’ve heard more and more as Gen Z students exit high school and decide what to do next. Though the traditional path is to either go to college or get straight to work, taking a gap year after high school has presented itself as the in-between period for self-discovery and exploration. But what exactly is a gap year, and how does one decide if it’s the path for them?
A gap year is a year students take before post-high school education (whether college or trade school), to volunteer, gain work experience, travel the world, or just gain real-world experience life experience outside of a classroom. The idea of this year is to explore life after spending 13 years of primary school to point students in the right direction.
Pros of Taking a Gap Year After High School
There is debatably no better feeling than knowing yourself before committing years of your life to a degree, job, or overall goal. As a high school student, you may have not yet had the opportunity to really form your own identity apart from your school and parents. Taking a gap year can provide the opportunity for further self-discovery through volunteering, working in different industries, pursuing a hobby, or traveling the world. Each of these experiences can unlock new parts of your mind to help identify what it is you’re drawn to and help set you on the path to pursuing an education that aligns with that.
Exploring the world, trying a job you’ve never done before, or discovering your love for connecting with people are all examples of priceless life experiences a gap year can offer. Before true responsibilities settle in, gaining more experiential notches in your belt will help you become a more well-rounded member of society.
“It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.” Understandably, this popular saying doesn’t truly become clear until later in life. However, if you plant the seeds of networking early on, the reality that “who you know” can quite literally change your life (for better or worse). Networking in spaces you hope to be in the future will not only motivate you to keep going but can also get you to where you want to go a lot faster down the road. Gap year or not – start now.
Saving Money (Potentially)
Depending on the individual, taking a gap year before college can be a great time to start saving up for school. Some people take their gap year to gain work experience, save money while expenses are low (thanks parents!), and ward off the possibility of mounting student debt. If your end goal is entering college as financially confident as possible, this is a great way to do it.
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Cons of Taking a Gap Year After High School
To juxtapose the frugal gap year, the more adventurous alternatives can be quite expensive. If you have aspirations to travel the world for a year, this can certainly add up. Setting a budget for your gap year is important for managing expectations of just how long you can travel and how you’ll be able to fund it. Bear in mind that college is also an expensive adventure, so set clear budgeting parameters for the upcoming years ahead to prevent future financial hardships.
Lost Motivation for Continued Education
After seeing the world, getting real-life experience, and finding oneself, it might be easy to feel like you’ve got this "life thing" figured out. After all, it’s certainly an invigorating way to kick off life after high school. Beginning your gap year with an end goal in mind and check-ins each month is a great way to keep yourself on track and keep your sights on fulfilling your gap year mission and entering school the following fall.
If you do find you’ve lost motivation to go back to school, consider why you wanted to go in the first place. Do your future goals require a college education? Have your desires for your future changed? Self-check-ins are monumental for continued success in staying on your path.
“Falling Behind” Peers
One of the perceived cons of the gap year is the fear of falling behind your peers. The good news is, this is only a limiting belief. After high school, you will learn that your life and your path do not have to be linear or parallel with your peers. If you decide to take one year off and complete your degree in three years, you can. If you decide to take a “victory lap” in your 4-year degree to get that minor in Digital Media Design, go for it.
As you can see, there are pros and cons of taking a gap year after finishing high school, or between high school and college, but everyone is different. When it’s all said and done, the ages of those you walk across the graduation stage with do not matter. What matters is that you got an education that will help propel you to the next level of your life. No matter if it takes 3 years or 8 to get there. Your education and your life are for you to decide.
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