Should You Consider a Gap Year?

Should You Consider a Gap Year?
  • Opening Intro -

    Finishing high school and then heading straight to college has been the practice of millions of Americans for decades.

    It is a rite of passage usually taken for granted, especially among professional career aspiring young adults.

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Gap Year Break

There is a trend underfoot, however, that may change that approach for a number of students. And that is to take a gap year, often as high school ends, delaying college for at least a year to pursue other interests. Gap years are nothing new and are widely practiced by Mormon missionaries who interrupt their education to share their faith far beyond their campus.

Other students have found that the break gives them a much better perspective about themselves and the world that they live in. Indeed, it is a position that Joe O’Shea has advocated in his book, “Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs.”

Raising Global Awareness

O’Shea also shared his viewpoint in a recent Inside Higher Ed article. In short, a gap year changes students and “in ways that the world needs” offers O’Shea. Those ways include being more intuitive to what goes on around the world, looking beyond a small area of influence and redefining one’s outlook accordingly.

A gap year can expose students to people they might otherwise never meet and take in new cultures while embracing a different language. It is the kind of background many employers prefer from their 21st century job candidates, offering perhaps more than what a year studying abroad can offer.

Gap Year Paths

Here are three examples of students that took a gap year, approaching their breaks differently before continuing with their higher education:

Samuel finished high school with a “B” average, but he wasn’t ready for college. In fact, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. Concerned that he might simply add hours to his part-time job just to stay busy, his Guatemalan-born mother encouraged him to spend one year with her family in the city of Antigua. Samuel used that year honing his Spanish-language skills, immersing himself in the local culture, and taught children how to read. After his year was completed, he returned to the US, enrolled in college and pursued a dual degree in elementary education and Spanish.

Sandra followed several generations of family members to attend Brigham Young University in Utah. She knew from the start that upon graduation she would spend 18 months as an LDS missionary, a voluntary break that she intended to pursue, before entering the workforce. However, a change in the minimum mission age for men and women meant that Sandra would take her break after completing her second year at BYU, becoming the first woman in her family to interrupt her studies.

Robert shared his parent’s interest in nursing, but he wasn’t sure how far he wanted to go with his training. After obtaining an associate degree in nursing and becoming a licensed-practice nurse (LPN), Robert responded to an ad for LPNs at a clinic in rural Mississippi. He left his Michigan home to work at a pediatric care facility, a position he held for about two years. Although he enjoyed pediatrics, he decided to stay in Mississippi to pursue a degree in geriatric nursing.

Time Spent Abroad

Taking 12 months or more off from school can benefit anyone, particularly the student that is not certain what career path he or she wants to pursue. Many colleges and universities are adjusting to these changes with some fully expecting that you’ll interrupt your studies for hands-on exposure to real world conditions. And for students of limited means, organizations such as Omprakash are making it easier for students to afford time abroad.

See AlsoFinal Fling: What to do After Graduating College?

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