The benefits of taking a gap year

By Abisha Sooriyathas

Posted on July 26, 2021
If you’re nearing the end of high school and are unsure of what career path you want to pursue, you are not alone. Many students finish high school feeling stressed and confused as they begin navigating the rest of their lives. If you feel you’re not ready to jump into university and need a break between high school and post-secondary, there is a simple solution to reduce some of this stress: A gap year.

What is a gap year?

According to Algonquin College, a gap year is time taken off between high school and a full-time university or college program. Gap years can also be taken between university and graduate school. The purpose of a gap year is to give students a break from education and time to understand themselves and their goals.
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Despite this positive definition, many students are hesitant to take a gap year. They may worry about lagging behind friends or fear that they might waste a year that could have been spent progressing towards their future. This article will explain the benefits of taking a gap year and how it can sometimes better prepare you for post-secondary schooling and life in general.

Taking time to figure yourself out

In a society that often values and even encourages productivity and busyness, it is not often that individuals take time to reflect. Although frequently overlooked, personal reflection and self-regulation make up a large component of success.

A study included in the Advances in Medical Education and Practice journal showed that students who took a gap year before entering medical school developed greater levels of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage oneself, as well as the ability to understand and manage relationships with others. This includes the development of skills such as decision-making, self-confidence, empathy, and communication. These are essential skills that are needed for most, if not all, careers. Therefore, a gap year can be beneficial for long-term career success.

Saving money

The expenses associated with post-secondary education can be overwhelming, especially for individuals who have pre-existing financial responsibilities. Taking a gap year can allow individuals to find work and begin saving money for the future. This can lessen the financial burden that might come with post-secondary education and prepare students to begin their studies without additional stress.

Gaining new experiences

Taking a year off allows you to gain experiences and expand your worldview. This can be done through work or volunteer opportunities, which are available both locally and abroad. Volunteer work is a fantastic way to meet new people, learn new skills, and become a more well-rounded individual. There are plenty of travel websites, like Workaway, that allow individuals to find volunteer opportunities in different countries for reasonable prices. These firsthand experiences foster a greater understanding of the world that we live in and help individuals learn more about backgrounds and lifestyles that are different from their own.

Avoiding burn out and redefining your relationship with education

Many students do not have a choice in whether they enter high school. For the first 18 years of their lives, decisions are made for them about how they spend their time and what they must do. Over time, this can lead to a feeling of exhaustion, lack of control, and resentment when thinking about school.

By reclaiming some of the choices they have in their education through taking a gap year, students are given time to reframe their perspective and relationship to education. Instead of school being something they feel obligated to do, it can instead be viewed as something they feel grateful for having the opportunity to do. In this time off, individuals are able to live their life free of an identity that is attached to their education or career. Instead of defining themselves as a “student,” they are able to discover who they are as a person. This allows them to have a relationship to education that feels less overwhelming and stressful.

Time to develop healthy habits

Going to college or university can at times feel like a culture shock. Between the new environment and the heavy course load, students often neglect healthy habits such as eating well and exercising. By taking a year off, individuals are able to prioritize the betterment of themselves and develop healthy habits that can hopefully carry them throughout university. Studies have shown that healthy lifestyle behaviours result in enhanced academic achievement. This, once again, supports the fact that a gap year, when used properly, is able to provide immense benefits to all individuals.
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Although taking a gap year can be a worrying process for some students, there are many benefits that can arise from the time off from school. It is important to remember that not all students are the same, and each one will move at a different pace. Pursuing post-secondary schooling and finding a career is not a race, and there is no need to rush the process. It can often be beneficial to take time to pause, reflect, and accept what life brings you along the way.

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