Figuring out what you want to do after high school can be tough. From choosing whether or not to continue your studies right away and which college to attend, to choosing what subject you want to study and what specific courses to take can be as overwhelming for the parents as it is for the kids. An increasingly popular option these days is known as a “gap year”. But just what is a gap year exactly, and is it right for your child?
What is it?
A gap year is just that, a gap year. It’s taking a year off between finishing high school and starting college to save money, travel, gain some work experience, whatever you want to do.
Why take a gap year?
There are many good arguments for taking a gap year; some would argue that it provides adolescents with self-sufficiency, life experience, and a greater understanding of who they are and what they want to do in the future, which in itself can be helpful in making decisions regarding college applications. In fact, many college applications encourage taking a gap year for these reasons, reasoning that students can bring a more mature outlook and heightened sense of perspective into the classroom. Another reason people choose to take a gap year is to save money for college or future travel. Personally, I swear by my gap year spent working in England; my worldview widened immensely, not to mention my sense of emotional maturity. While I didn’t save much money by the end, I did gain close friends, valuable work experience, and lifelong memories. Conversely, I had friends that were never interested, claiming that if they delayed college for a year they were afraid they would never make it, and others that downright regretted their decision to take a gap year. These friends of mine felt that while they had fun, they didn’t succeed in saving money, and overall just delayed their graduation from college and entering the workforce by a year. In truth, the benefits of taking a gap year come down to the individual person, and what they choose to do with the year.
Gap year options:
Being a year in length provides adolescents with heaps of options; they can break up the time into smaller sections and try out a few different things, or save up some money in the first part of the year before traveling afterwards. Here are some options:
• Working overseas: There are a wide range of websites to assist you with finding overseas work on your gap year – try gapyear.com or gapwork.com. Otherwise, if you hold a passport from an applicable country (check here), you can follow in the steps of yours truly and apply for a Youth Mobility visa to work in the UK.
• Short-term study: If the idea of taking time off after 12 years of study before commencing another 3-4 years of further study to study doesn’t make them want to peel their own skin off, consider this a valid option. You can find short-term language programs at a variety of universities overseas, or think Tsinghua for one close to home. Alternatively, utilize the World Wide Web and access thousands of online courses right at your fingertips. Check out coursera.com and udemy.com for courses in everything from Psychology, to Data Analysis, to Introductory Corporate Finance.
• Volunteering: Using this time to volunteer can really make some positive change, as well as make a personal impact on the person and provide them with helpful contacts and life experience. Not to mention, it also looks great on a college application. There are thousands of great organizations out there to get involved with, it’s just up to choosing one that is personally significant, whether it’s teaching in rural areas, helping with wildlife conservation, or getting hands on with building structures or community projects.
• Travel: We can’t help too much with this one! If the options prove too multitudinous, check out contiki.com or busabout.com for more guided tour options.
Is it the right option for my child?
No two people are the same; whether or not a gap year is suitable depends on what the student wants to get out of it, their forward planning, and most of all their mindset. If your child is raring to get to college or enter the next phase of their life post-high school, then great. But if they are a bit tentative or just want to try something new for a year first, then a gap year might be for them.
Photos: courtesy of Wikimedia Commons