According to a statistic from 2018, sixty-nine percent of people freshly graduated from high school enroll for college for the following fall semester. While the majority of high school graduates do attend college right away, this practice isn’t as common in places such as Europe and Commonwealth countries.
It seems that society prepares students for college at the beginning of school age. When you’re indoctrinated into thinking you have to do something in life, you most likely are going to do it. But, not everyone wants to go to college, or at least right away.
Taking a gap year before college may be the right decision if you’re unsure of how you’re going to afford high education, what you want to study, or where you want to attend university. To figure out if taking a college gap year is right for you, keep reading.
What Is a Gap Year, and Are They Becoming More Popular?
A gap year is simply taking a year off between graduating and attending college. Sometimes people take a gap year after college to decide if they want to go to grad school. Others take a gap year in the middle of their college process.
Gap years are good for figuring out how to save money for college, exploring job opportunities, and traveling. It’s a time to do a deep dive into yourself. If utilizing the time wisely, you discover what you want out of life and how you can make tangible steps toward your goals.
The popularity of taking a gap year has risen, but the pandemic has undoubtedly made this decision even more difficult for a lot of people. Since Covid occurred, lots of colleges have resorted to online classes. Students, however, may be turned away from attending college without the full college experience.
Tuition prices are the same for online classwork. You also may not get to experience living in a dorm, meeting other people with similar interests, and taking advantage of the resources campus has to offer.
This has given students thinking about college much to consider. However, with things with Covid settling down, many campuses have opened up for in-person classes with potentially lessened opportunities than before.
Benefits of Taking a Gap Year Before College
There are many benefits to taking a gap year, depending on how you decide to spend your time. The most prominent benefits of taking a gap include the following.
- Gain real-life experience
- Time for reflection
- Opportunities to take on jobs
- More time to discover new things about yourself
- Time for traveling
- Saving money for college
- Set goals
- Develop new skills
These are only some of the potential benefits a gap year has to offer. The possibilities are seemingly endless. After spending twelve years in school, which is well over half of your life, you finally have time to find yourself outside of that context.
School can be a confining time for many people. You all of a sudden gain the freedom to go where you please and do what you’d like. It can be overwhelming for some, but eye-opening for most.
If you want to take a gap year, but are unsure of how to spend your time, use some of the following tips.
- Do volunteer work
- Get a job
- Find an internship
- Audit a class at your local community college
- Spend time trying new hobbies
These can lead you to learn new things about yourself and help you figure out what you want to do in life. Gaining life experience and spending time for yourself, with no expectations to please others, is the ultimate way to success.
Drawbacks of Taking a Gap Year
Though there are many great results from a gap year, it’s not for everyone. The most obvious drawback is that you get a late start on starting college. You’ll then graduate later and be behind when pursuing your career.
You may also have a loss in earning potential. A cumulative effect occurs from delaying school a year, as you’ll miss out on a year’s worth of post-graduation income that can help increase your wage beyond this one year of experience.
After taking a break from school, it’s hard to jump back into a vigorous academic lifestyle. Unless you spend part of your gap year researching, reading, and studying on your own accord, the transition from a leisure lifestyle to an academic one is rough.
Due to the travel restrictions and such from Covid, your opportunities may be limited during your gap year. There is a current job shortage. However, many positions have been lost or are harder to come by with the transition to remote working.
It’s true that you can save money during a gap year, but if you’re traveling or working an unpaid internship, your funds will significantly deplete. That’ll make it difficult to afford college when you do decide to go if you don’t plan for the costs.
The process of taking a gap year can be a bit difficult and annoying. If you’ve already been accepted into college, you’ll have to go through a deferment process. Some colleges don’t offer deferment options either.
Another thing that tends to happen after taking a gap year is that it turns into never going to college. Some people decide they don’t need to go to college, and that’s the right choice for them. But, you may find yourself at the end of a gap year still unsure of what you want to do, delaying your enrollment in college even further.
Alternative Solutions and Compromise
After weighing your options, and you’re still unsure, you can compromise. Try enrolling for a part-time school schedule. This gives you the chance to see what college is like without fully committing.
You can use this time in school to explore classes that interest you, or knock out core classes required for all degrees. The free time you have without taking full-time classes lets you have some freedom to invest in your college savings, work, travel, and discover what makes you happy.
Many colleges let you audit classes as well. This means you can take courses without receiving credit for them. While there are obvious downfalls to not receiving credit, there are upsides too.
When you audit a course, you are not responsible for your grades, tests, or homework. You only have to focus on what you can handle in the class. Professors won’t treat you as a priority, but you’re still able to make meaningful connections with them while receiving the benefits of trying a college course without the pressure involved.
Going to a community college for the first year can also be another great compromise for you. You save money this way instead of heading off to a university in a different city or state. The experience of college is still there while you receive credit for the courses you take.
How to Take a Gap Year
If you go through with taking a gap year, you should still plan intensively for your future. Clearly define your goals and make reasonable, actionable steps to achieve them. Budget if you must, invest in a college savings account, and gain real-world experience.
Still apply for college even if you know you’ll take a gap year. This way, you take advantage of the resources you have in high school to set you up for success in applying to colleges.
Then, if you get accepted to school, you can apply for a deferral. Depending on what you want to go to school for, may play a factor in if your deferral request gets accepted.
Take time to ask people you know how their college experience was. Everyone has their own path, but using people’s personal experience to your advantage is a smart move.
Some people who graduated may tell you they wish they never went to school in the first place. Others may boast that they wish they went on to grad school after graduating from their bachelor’s program. You never know the kinds of answers you’ll receive, so it doesn’t hurt to ask any questions you have.
Consider taking classes online as well. You can usually easily transfer online course credits to most colleges and universities.
Going to College After a Gap Year
It can seem intimidating to apply for college after taking a gap year, especially without the heavy encouragement from high school staff and teachers. However, there are ways to prepare to set yourself up for success.
Keep in mind that you’ll be going back to school, so don’t let yourself not study or research anything during this time. Choose a topic you’ve always wanted to learn and take free online courses. Keep yourself accountable by finishing the course after a specific amount of time.
Applying to school before your gap can help familiarize you with the process. This way, you may already have a spot at a college waiting for you if you’re accepted and request a referral. Otherwise, you’ll have an idea of what documents and steps you need in order to complete the college application process.
Refine your resume or application by including the unique experiences you’ve had during your gap year. If you write the essay that some colleges require and others leave optional, you can talk in more detail about what you’ve learned and the importance that taking a gap year was for you.
Just because you took a gap year doesn’t mean you’re at a complete disadvantage. In fact, some colleges admire the amount of self-awareness required to make such a difficult decision. Use this information when writing your application essay to make it clear what the experience was like for you.
Additional Tips for Transitioning to College Life
Other ways you can prepare yourself for college include not treating a gap year as an actual break. Treat it more as a time to stay disciplined and focus on what your goals in life are outside of the context of education.
This requires you to develop a positive mindset where you can identify your goals. Journaling or writing a list of things you’d like to learn or progress in during your gap year helps keep your momentum going without teachers or grades holding you accountable.
Momentum is one of the biggest things to always have when deciding to take a gap year. If you lose it, you might miss out on the likelihood that you’ll get accepted into college when you reapply. If you take a gap year off and don’t spend your time wisely, colleges will notice this and dismiss the seriousness of your application.
Take the lessons you’ve learned throughout your gap year with you to college. Remain open-minded and optimistic about your future. Remind yourself that you don’t have to take the traditional path to have success in life.
If you’ve found a renewed sense of passion for life during your gap year, don’t lose that in the hustle and bustle of school. Apply your interests and thirst for knowledge toward your college degree.
Weigh Your Options
Weigh all of your options before deciding to take a gap year before college. The decision is a difficult one to make. Don’t rush it, and stay prepared for anything to happen.
Apply to college just in case, and have clear goals in mind if you don’t want to pursue higher education right away. To receive more insight into how you can smartly make decisions about your future and save for college, visit the College Budget’s site here.