Original post by Jamie Stewart
Like most good things in life, taking a gap year is a choice that needs serious consideration. In order to make an informed decision, you need to know the facts. And today I’m here to help...well, me and all the data from the American Gap Association’s (AGA) most recent study.
In 2014-2015, the AGA, a nonprofit accreditation service, took a deeper look at all the benefits of taking an institutional gap year before or during college in order to churn out some hard data on this new and growing life path. As the numbers clearly show, not all myths about gap years are in fact true. Let’s take a look at some of the most common (false) perceptions of gap years and how they affect students.
Myth #1: FOMO. Everyone else is going to college. Before long, they’ll have fancy new school friends and you’ll be sitting at home all by yourself.
The Fear Of Missing Out may tempt you to pack up the car and head off to school with all the rest of your high school friends, but take a moment to think first. There are seven billion people in the world and only around five hundred to fifty thousand incoming college freshman per class. Clearly, not everyone is going to college. And just because you don’t go to orientation doesn’t mean you’ll become a friendless hermit.
In fact, social interaction proved to be one of the most highly lauded outcomes of the gap year experience. An overwhelming percentage of participants reported that during their gap year they were able to form new and engaging relationships. Of those people who chose an institutional gap year, 86% formed relationships with their peers, 80% got acquainted with their group leaders/staff, and 89% made new friends with the locals in the different locations they traveled to. Overall, you can’t help but meet new people, no matter what path you choose after college.
Myth #2: Taking a year off before going to college makes you look aimless and lazy. No university will even look at you if you aren’t highly motivated.
The last thing you want to do when applying to college is to make yourself look like a lazy slob, but actually taking a gap year tends to have the exact opposite effect. According to the survey, students who took a gap year reported that their gap year was so meaningful to them because it allowed them to have “a wide range of experiences.” This range included exploring spirituality, participating in environmental activities, and even managing a personal travel budget. Today, more and more colleges are searching for applicants who are well rounded and cultured. 73% of participants said taking a gap year increased their readiness for college. If it helps, think of your gap year as one long experience in college prep. By the end of it, you’ll most certainly have the experience college recruiters are looking for.
And if you want to be ahead of the game, you can even start planning for college before your gap year begins. According to the study, 93% of students who took gap years were in fact already admitted to college. By getting accepted to the university of your choice and opting to defer for a year, you can carry out your gap year knowing there is a place for you at school when you return home.
Myth #3: One year is plenty of time to forget everything you learned in high school. When you finally do register for courses, there’s no way you’ll ever survive English 101.
Not true! According to the study, “those who participated in a gap year had, on average, shorter times to graduation and higher GPAs as compared to national norms.” Sometimes taking a break from the stressors of supervised education is exactly what you need in order to pause, breathe, and reevaluate your goals in life. One year of respite from worksheets and standardized tests can give you the headspace you need to decide what you want to accomplish and how to get it done.
And while you figure out your own path, you don’t have to put the books away. Of participants surveyed, 52% specifically wanted to explore academic pursuits during their gap year. 35% took courses not for credit and 55% participated in language learning programs. Simple recursive revision will keep the knowledge you learned fresh while letting the stress of high school fade away.
Myth #4: Taking a gap year is only an option for the rich and famous. No one right out of high school has the funds to go gallivanting across the globe.
True, those summers spent serving pizza at the boardwalk might not cover the costs associated with taking a gap year, but it turns out most families are willing to help. According to the study, 59% of parents made financial contributions to fund their child’s gap year experience.
And just because you go on a gap year doesn’t mean you have to stop working! There are plenty of ways for you to make money during this time. In fact, of those surveyed, 72% of people reported taking a gap year specifically in order to explore careers or gain work experience. Some gap year participants reported working for pay while others interned or participated in training courses to develop their professional career skills. By taking a year off school, you give yourself the freedom to pursue a full-time job. Money isn’t everything, but you can certainly still make some during your gap year!
These are just a few of the realities surrounding gap years and how they impact you. Everyone’s experience will be different, but there’s no need to worry about the negatives. If you want to have a successful gap year, all the tools are out there to help make it happen!
To brush up on some more of the data collected by the AGA, check out the full study report here.