Importance of a Gap Year
The pressure of deciding on what you want to study and be, where you want to go to college and if you can even afford to go to college is absolutely asphyxiating. Stress is a silent killer. You may notice the signs of wear and tear, but usually, the damage can be more severe than you may think you know. One solution to all these questions and release of strenuous pressure is taking a gap year. When entering high school, there is already a lot to take in. On top of that, one must figure out where they want to go to college and what plans of actions to take to make sure they build a resume that makes them a strong candidate to stand out amongst a sea of others.
Trust me, I know of this suffocating pressure because I struggled with this myself: balancing extracurriculars, AP classes, committees, etc. Despite having four years to come to a decision, those years go by too fast; they’re not enough. Despite what people may think, taking a gap year is not a bad thing. According to New York Times, “less than one percent of those graduating high school” take a gap year. It’s understandable that people may look down on other people who take gap years because they see them as “getting behind”. However, that is not necessarily the case. A gap year is more beneficial than people think. A lot of people who have a productive gap year can get more ahead than a person who went straight to college after graduating high school.
Planning a Gap Year
A gap year is not about just taking a break. It’s about taking the chance to discover yourself and the things your truly love and the things you hate. The stability and confidence that can come with this yearlong, self-discovery experience will be well worth the wait and all the stress and pressure accumulated from before. Now, planning a gap year should not be some impromptu decision. It takes time and dedication to plan a productive and worthwhile gap year. Simply put, there are four steps to a perfect gap year plan: ask yourself questions, decide a pathway, know your resources and prepare yourself. Despite there being only four steps, each step requires complete dedication and focus as one wrong decision can ruin the whole planning process and entail starting over. First, there are a few questions you must ask yourself before finalizing on whether a gap year is right for you. Below is a sample diagram created to help the questioning process: Second, if you do decide on taking a gap year, it is crucial to determine the path it will take.
Depending on whether your gap year is spent volunteering or completing an internship or studying abroad all calls for different plans of actions and researching. Once you decide on what path your gap year will take, then you can really get into the gratifying research. For an example, if you plan to study abroad, where do you want to study? Deciding on what you wish to study, and the location will give you an idea on how your budget, board, and timeframe of the trip will be. There are several scholarship programs that offer study abroad and give you the timeframes offered: spring semester, fall semester, summer semester, or yearlong. Once all the basics are finalized, it’s time to get in-depth in your research. Knowing your resources and preparing yourself are the final two steps. They tie into each other because these steps require the most attention.
By doing thorough research of not only the program, but personal preparations will allow for your trip to be more comfortable as you will already be dealing with nerves and, maybe, a little culture shock if going abroad. Some of the vital preparations are making sure your passport is valid, acquiring any vaccinations needed, arranging for a visa (if needed), making a detailed packing list, booking any accommodations (if not on a scholarship program). These are just a few indispensable things to complete before taking off on an epic journey. Most important, enjoy yourself. This year is about having fun and experiencing new things and gaining new skills and accomplishments to put under your belt and use when you return. Returning to the educational scene when you come back home may be stressful all over again. However, the experiences and connections are worth taking the jump and breaking off from the society norms. Some people may see this as being behind, but to the person who completes a successful gap year, will be more ahead than they ever thought they could be.