The Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year
If you’re charging head-on to college or graduate school, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. But if you’re hesitant to jump back into the academic fray, consider taking a gap year. Time between schooling is becoming increasingly popular — but is it all it’s cracked up to be?
Who takes a Gap Year?
Answer: lots of people.
There are two prevailing worldviews here: 1) those that perceive themselves to be on some type of educational journey, and 2) pragmatists. If you are of the first opinion, you might consider taking a gap year between institutions and levels — a break between high school and college, college and graduate school, or otherwise. Your gap year might be one of work, internship, travel, or self-exploration. Your gap year might turn into five gap years, a long stint at Burning Man, or a full-on quarterlife crisis. If you grew up believing that education is a necessary right, you are probably one of these people.
The pragmatists are those to whom education is a privilege, and to whom continuing formal education is not a forgone conclusion. These people probably don’t conceptualize of it as a “gap year” — most of them are too busy working. They’re saving up to provide themselves with the opportunity to further their education.
What does a Gap Year look like?
Often, not too much. Especially from the outside. If you’re taking a gap year (or ten), you might be “just figuring it out.” Maybe you didn’t apply on time; maybe your parents will pay for you to travel. Maybe you have a great job you’re not ready to give up yet. Maybe you’re teaching English abroad. Maybe you’re an academic burn out. Maybe you’re an overachieving free spirit, and you’ve smartly planned your gap year to pad your résumé. Having a plan can make for a great gap year, but those usually cost someone else’s money.
My gap year has turned into to five — I have some experiential questions to explore before exposing myself to the soul-wrenching inquiry that I expect during the slow burn of a doctorate in philosophy. I’ve moved around the country, rolled with it, shifted focus, and had a host of disparate, mostly life-giving jobs (usually more than one at a time). I’m in training; living some real life before giving in to the academy completely. I’m playing my best long game. And my gap years have been great.
How do I know what’s right for me?
Answer: You don’t. All you can do is your dedicated best. But if you’re considering a gap year, consider these:
- You don’t have to go to school during your gap year.
- A reported 85% of HR professionals surveyed for gapyear.com agreed that work experience relevant to their field was more valuable than an average “non-vocational” (read: humanities) degree.
- There are gap year fairs, much like career fairs. These can help you plan your gap year to look impressive on a résumé.
- If you have the luxury of time and money, a gap year can fundamentally alter your worldview and change the path of your life.
- If you’re used to the routine that school provides, you may spend some time floundering if your gap year isn’t mapped out.
- Unemployment rates are really high. Believe me, gap years are pretty tough if you’re starting out broke.
- There are gap year fairs, much like career fairs. Real jobs looks pretty impressive on a résumé.
- (Also pro): If you don’t know, a gap year will teach you about the real world — the hard way.
Campus Explorer: Top 10 Reasons to Take a Gap Year
MIT Admissions: On Taking a Gap Year