News May 11th 2017

7 Things to Consider Before Taking a Gap Year


With more institutions all over the world encouraging applicants to take time off school to work, travel to different places, or volunteer, it's not really difficult to be convinced to join this so-called ‘gap year' bandwagon. But here's a fact—it isn't for everybody. Before taking a move that could make or break your career, you might want to ask yourself: should I take a gap year? Here are some gap year ideas for you, should you decide to join this emerging global trend.

What exactly is a ‘gap year'?

Before you rush into making any decisions, let's first get to know what a gap year really means. The American Gap Association (AGA) defines the term as “an experiential semester or year "on," typically taken between high school and college in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness.” This is just one of the many meanings the term has acquired over the years. Holly Bull of the Center for Interim Programs define the term “gap year” as a time for exploring areas of interest.

We've rounded up the 7 things you need to consider before taking a gap year:

1. Can you afford it?

When it comes to taking a gap year, students are left with many options—and money isn't really an issue if you know where to look for a program to sign up for. Some programs provide good benefits and a good amount of stipend to students. There are organizations which do not charge any fee at all for their volunteer programs, although students need to shoulder their living expenses.

You might think that gap years will just incur additional expenses in your household, but think of it as a way to save your parents a huge sum of money as it can give you a clear direction of what you really want to pursue as a career. Less confusion = less chance of shifting from one major to another.

2. When is the best time to take it?

As with all important things in life, timing is crucial in taking a gap year.

A gap year can be taken anytime, but most college admissions officials and advisors highly recommend for students to take it between high school and college. In addition to this, it is also highly advised for students to secure an acceptance from a college or university before taking a gap year as the last two years of high school play a vital role in the application process.

Will a gap year take exactly 365 days? No, it doesn't have to. According to AGA, ‘gap year' originated in the United Kingdom during the 70s as a period to fill the gap between a student's final examinations and the start of university, which usually takes only 7 to 8 months. This depends on how much time the student really needs.

3. What will you gain from it?

Do something worthwhile during your gap year, and the benefits you will reap will be remarkable!

There are a lot of good things that come with taking a gap year. For starters, a gap year can serve as a breather from all the stress brought about by high school. It's a time to take things slow and determine what career you want to pursue.

Whether you're eyeing a structured program, part-time job, or a trip to a different place, take all the time you need to pick an activity which has the most learnings and experiences that will help you ease into adult life.

4. What are the possible drawbacks of having a ‘gap year?'

Taking some time off before starting college would also mean that you will delay your formal education. This means that your peers who will go through the traditional academic process will graduate ahead of you and will be establishing their careers sooner that you will. Also, if you are the type who have the tendency to lose your momentum by taking some time off and graduating from college is a high priority for you, it might be better to reconsider your options.

5. How will this affect the financial aid being offered to you?

If you are planning to take a gap year, there's no need to worry about losing your scholarship. In fact, you can defer your admission to the institution granting the scholarship or re-apply for it, in the case of Federal Financial Aids.

"Scholarships vary by school, but if you've been offered it once, you have a good shot of being offered it again," Bull says. In most cases, especially now that gap years are widely appreciated than ever, colleges and universities secure the students' slots until they are back from their breaks.

6. What do schools think of students taking a gap year?

Most, if not all, premier colleges and universities all over the globe have been very accommodating to the concept of taking a gap year. Take for example Harvard which has been, for more than 30 years, giving out acceptance letters that suggest students take a break before enrollment. Gap years, when done properly, can do wonders to a student's academic performance. Burn out is a real thing, and a time off to work or to volunteer can refresh a student.

7. What will a gap year do to help you transition to college?

Some professionals from the academe notice that students that take a gap year tend to be more mature, confident, and more effective in problem solving—some of the things any college student should acquire. Gail Reardon, head of the gap year counseling firm Taking Off, says the term gap year is actually a misnomer, when the students are actually ‘filling in' and learning the things they weren't taught in school.

If you are one of the lucky ones who will get to travel during your gap year, use the time wisely to expand your world views. A deep understanding of diverse cultures is essential to be able to survive and thrive in college, a jungle where dealing with all sorts of people coming from all sorts of backgrounds is almost totally inevitable.

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