Going straight to college right after high school is the widely accepted norm, but it’s not the best option for everybody.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the usual way of life for many, including students, making it difficult for them to be efficient in their classes. Taking a gap year might be the right choice for some.
There is a range of benefits in taking a gap year before college. Nine months without academic responsibilities can give you time to pursue your passions, gain new experiences, save up money, and prepare yourself (physically, mentally, and emotionally) for the next four years of college. But in this article, we’re not talking about what a gap year can do for you. Instead, we’ll focus on the factors you need to consider whether a gap year is right for you.
Goals and Aspirations
Make a list of your short and long-term goals. For your short term goals, ask yourself: what do you want to achieve during your gap year? Do you want to get a job and save up for college? Do you want to join a gap year program that will let you travel while making money? Or perhaps pursue a passion project that you couldn’t do while in high school?
Then, consider your long-term goals or the goals you want to achieve in the next five years. What kind of job do you want to have after you graduate? Do you want to start a business at some point? Where do you want to live?
You don’t need to have a clear picture of what you want to attain in the future, but setting specific goals should help steer you in the right direction. You can start thinking about how a gap year will help you achieve those goals—if a gap year will be beneficial to those goals, you should take one.
Now, you have your goals set out, but what about your plans? When you take a gap year, you will be shifting suddenly from going to school every day to having no commitments. It may sound like an excellent opportunity to take a break—and it is!—but without a plan, your days will steadily blur and become increasingly dull.
Before you take a gap year, you need to have a plan. For instance, if your goal is to get a job to save money for college, set a date for when you will start applying, and list down all the positions you want to apply for. If you also want to volunteer, figure out how that will fit your schedule when you have a job, and determine what level of commitment you can manage on top of your workload.
Unless your parents are willing to fund your entire gap year, you need to consider how you’re going to finance yourself while taking a break from school.
To figure that out, take a look at your plans. If you want to travel, start a business, increase your savings, or do anything else that requires money, think about where you’re going to get it. You may have to take a job even if it’s not part of your plans. Alternatively, you can try freelancing or starting a small business that requires low capital.
A gap year is an opportunity to learn how to become more self-sufficient, a skill that will benefit you later in life.
A gap year is not all sunshine and rainbows. There are also some bumps along the way that will make you question if you’ve made the right choice. You will have to watch your peers go to college and get a headstart. Your relationships with friends may grow distant because they’ve already gone to college. You may experience things that your peers won’t be able to relate to yet, like working a full-time job or travelling halfway across the globe. Whatever the case may be, there will likely be difficulties during your gap year—and that is a reality you have to accept before finalizing your decision.
After you take a gap year, you will have to adjust to being a student again. It can be challenging to go from being a frequent traveller to suddenly being stuck in a dorm room, so this is something that you also have to think about.
A gap year gives you time to grow as a person before entering college. It is an opportunity for learning, introspection, and exploration. But it is also a challenge that you have to be prepared for. So, think hard and decide wisely.