What are pros and cons to taking gap years before and after college?
I'm in high school hoping to go into either a health or law profession after college. I am currently undecided about which university I want to go to and what my major will be. #college
Making the transition from high school to college or from college to the real world isn’t always a smooth ride. For some students, taking a year off before facing the next challenge in their academic or professional careers gives them some much-needed room to breathe. If you approach it correctly, a gap year can be a life-changing and enriching experience. The key is to have a plan and keep your expectations realistic so your time off is time well spent.
Here are some PROS and CONS of Taking a Gap Year
TIME TO EXPLOR DIFFERENT COLLEGE MAJORS
Jumping into a degree program when you’re not sure what it is you want to do can be a waste of time and money. Instead of enjoying your college experience you may end up feeling frustrated and resentful with no better idea of what you want than when you started. Waiting to head off to school gives you an opportunity to discover what it is you really love and what you’re good at. If you decide that college isn’t the right choice, you’ve potentially saved yourself years of stress and thousands of dollars in tuition costs.
TIME TO GAIN REAL-WORLD EXPERIANCE
In today’s economic climate, a college degree by itself isn’t enough to land your dream job. Employers are looking for grads who’ve got the total package: knowledge, know-how and experience. If you’re planning to head into a field where experienced workers are in demand, taking a gap year may give you the edge you need to outshine the competition. Volunteering, completing an internship or doing freelance work are all great options for gaining valuable experience and it’ll look great on your resume when it’s time to start job hunting.
TIME TO DECOMPRESS
By the time a young adult reaches college they’ve already spent nearly 70% of their life in a classroom. High school students are finding themselves under an ever-increasing amount of pressure to excel. For some, the thought of even more school can be anxiety-inducing. The same is also true for college grads who are thinking of heading off to graduate school right after they finish their degree.
IT'S EASY TO LOSE FOCUS
While taking a gap year can help you find your focus, it’s also a good way to lose it. One of the main reasons for taking time off is to take advantage of opportunities to learn and grow outside the classroom. If you’re spending your days watching reruns on TV or hanging out with friends it’s easy to lose sight of why you wanted to take a gap year in the first place. When it’s time to go back to school or launch your career you may find yourself no better off than you were when you started.
IT CAN BE EXPENSIVE
If you want to spend your time traveling abroad, you’ll need to figure out how you’re going to pay for it unless you’re planning to work full-time, you may find yourself living on a tight budget during your gap year. This is true even if you’re planning to volunteer, since many international organizations will expect you to cover the cost of your living and travel expenses even if you’re donating your time. If you don’t have a plan for covering your expenses, you could end up racking up debt unnecessarily.
IT COULD IMPACT YOUR FINANCIAL AID
If you’ve already applied for financial aid but put off enrolling, you’ll have to reapply when you’re ready to go to school. If you or your parent’s income situation has changed drastically it could have a significant impact on the amount of aid you qualify for. Students who qualify for scholarships should also find out whether they’ll still be eligible once the gap year is over. Taking the year off may not be worth it if you end up having to pay more out of pocket when you finally get back to school.
Was this helpful Harry?
As for taking a gap year after college, people usually do it for pretty different reasons. If you decide to move back home and get a job there before moving into a place on your own, the benefits are clearly just saving money. However, a lot of people will take the year to do a lot of traveling before they have to settle into a 9-5 work schedule. If this is the type of gap year you want after college, the con would be that you are spending a lot more money than you are making, but the con is that you are racking up some irreplaceable life experiences.
1. Be better prepared for college - Taking and completing a gap year will give you a better sense of self. It will make you more independent and more mature.
2. Gain a better sense of self and the world - No matter what you do for your gap year, you will get to know yourself a little better. Taking a break from classroom learning will help you learn more about yourself and what makes you happy. You will also gain a new and different understanding of the world, as you stretch, grow and see new things.
3. Colleges and universities like it - providing incentives such as preferred admission, financial aid, and course credit to increase the number of students who do it.
4. Boost your resume - Taking a gap year is a great way to stand out from other applicants. Imagine being able to put on your resume that you’re fluent in another language and spent a year living in another country. By taking a gap year, you will set yourself apart from the pack and show confidence and motivation. It will also give you something to talk about at interviews! You will get to speak about why you chose to do it, why it was the right decision and everything you learned from it.
5. Expand your network - No matter what you do for your gap year, you will meet new people and expand your network. Whether you take a job in your home neighborhood or travel to a new country.
1. Fear you'll "be behind" - For many people considering a gap year, the biggest concern is that they’ll feel behind from their peers. But if you read the all the pros I mentioned above, I believes you can decide with you want to do.
2. Worried you'll lose momentum - Many students and their families worry that one year off could turn into many more and that students won’t return to college. Applying to college after a gap year might give you better options, a better chance for success, and a better overall experience.
3. Cost - Depending on how you spend your gap year, the cost of it will vary. It’s true that short-term travel programs often carry a high price tag.
As you think about these gap year pros and cons know that by considering a gap year you are daring to step off the beaten track. You are taking the first step towards steering your ship in the direction you choose.
I took a gap year between high school and college. When I was a senior in high school, I had some ideas of what I might want to major in and where I might go with a career, but had little idea which path to take or how to approach it.
I had the opportunity to do a gap year program with friends I made through a youth group and go overseas for the year and live in another country and get immersed in the culture and language, which was incredibly mind opening, but also personally mind focusing. By the end of that that year, I had a much better sense of the direction I wanted to take from an educational and career path. That does not mean I actually followed that narrow path long-term, but it gave me more of a definitive starting point.
I cannot guarantee you will have a similar experience, but it will afford you the opportunity to explore yourself more and find more direction for your life as get started down your post-high school and professional life.
Jerry recommends the following next steps:
I took a gap year after college and it changed my life. I was a naive young college grad and didn't want to jump into job market right away. I learned Japanese in college and always fascinated by the culture so I decided to take a year to enroll in language school and learn Japanese in Tokyo. One opportunity led to another the next thing I know I was enrolled in a graduate program in Japan and then got my first professional job in Japan. Here are what I believe are the pros and cons:
- Broaden your horizon and worldview
- Learn new culture and meet new people
- You will come across different opportunities in the process
- You do need a financial plan on how you are going to live in that year without a "professional" job. I taught Computer Science at a local vocational school and got some scholarships along the way.
- You will be a couple years older than your peer "new" employees when you finally decide to jump back into the workforce full-time
For me it was the right decision but there are following things you need to consider:
Hope this helps. Good luck!
Jonathan recommends the following next steps: