I never did a gap year.
I know, crazy. World traveller Alea never took a year off to explore the country she grew up in and didn’t leave her homeland to explore a different country. Here’s a girl who spends the majority of her time trying to convince everyone else that it’s important to explore the world, yet she barely has scratched the surface.
Part of this is because in the United States, it is uncommon for high-school-turning-college-students to take a year off in between. It is assumed since the beginning of your freshman year that you will go to college at the end of your four years. Maybe you’ll try community college, a state school or a private school but you will go to college. Part of this also has to do with the fact that my mother told me that if I was planning on taking a year off between high school and college I better expect to work full-time and pay rent. That was a responsibility I was not ready to assume.
Taking a gap year is common in almost every other country other than the United States. The more I’ve travelled as a twenty-two year old, the more I realized that perhaps it’s the norm to take a gap year in Europe, Asia and Australia. Sure, colleges are now encouraging travelling in the states and are allowing students to defer an acceptance (looking at you Malia Obama & Harvard)
If I could give any suggestions to high school juniors who are beginning the process of looking at colleges, I’d say look into taking a year off. You don’t have to travel but you could take a break. Rest that brain of yours. Learn about yourself and begin that maturing process our parents warned us about.
Here are some reasons why:
You’ll perform better
Students, like myself, have worried that professors might look down on them for taking a year off and travelling. Not true! Many college studies have reported that students who take a year off often perform better then students that go straight into college. Gap year students tend to have higher GPAs and are involved in more campus activities, so trust me, nothing is wrong with taking a break.
You’ll realize what you love before college
Sometimes I wonder if I want to do PR for the rest of my life. Maybe I would’ve made a good marine biologist (ha: I hate science), a humanitarian, a journalist, a psychologist – who knows? Instead I picked a major that I thought I might like and crossed my fingers. Luckily I fell in love with PR but not everyone is that lucky. By exploring the world, and yourself, you’ll figure out what you love and how to make that a real job.
You’ll get an adventure at your prime
Yes, I am currently living the dream. I’m living in London with less responsibilities than all of my friends, but it’s also stressful being a post-graduate student in London. It really is. When else are you going to be young, with no job, no kids, no responsibilities but taking care of yourself then when you’re 18? That’s right: never.
You’ll know what’s important in life before most people do
College is ridiculously fun but do you know how many headaches I could’ve avoided if I knew what I really wanted in life? I could’ve avoided crappy parties and crappier boys but I did. Instead I learned in college. But by taking a gap year, you travel the world and realize what’s actually important. It’s not how many drinks you have or what you buy: it’s the people and the places you’re in. By travelling you’ll understand that there are bigger issues in the world then losing a beer pong tournament.
Your resume will look AMAZING
The internship I got after studying abroad told me that they hired me because of my international travels. They said I looked well-rounded and that I understood what some of the major issues in the world are. I didn’t tell them that my four months abroad was spent travelling, drinking and eating but they had a point: I had expierenced people and places that most students my age had never thought to try. You’ll have valuable international experiences for your resume and can explain how you can work for a company because you’re used to dealing with people from different backgrounds and cultures. Companies love that.
So that’s are the reasons why I think a gap year should become more common for students. I really think you grow when you explore and when you take a year to explore you learn about yourself and people and where you want to go in life.
Why do you think you should take a gap year? And, if you’ve done the gap year, what are your suggestions for those considering it?