Ironic, because I was thrown into taking a gap year kicking and screaming.
It was actually the end of the world.
But there was something I didn’t know back then, and it was that taking a year off from school might be beneficial for me. The idea of a “break” didn’t seem okay at all. To this day, I feel like the American school system continues to discourage a break between high school and college. And I don’t quite understand why.
If you’re terrified of taking some time off after high school, I get it. I totally get it. The school system in the states makes it more difficult to get admitted into the top universities if you’re not an A+++ junior/senior in high school. It looks bad.
But it won’t!
I think a lot of people finishing high school find the idea of a gap year enticing (and with good reason). I always thought I would be deemed a failure or fall behind if I took a year off. I had several unfortunate events that led me to take a year off, and I was reluctant to give in. But I also thought, back then, that getting a degree in English or Art was useless and the only logical option was to be an engineer because I was good at math.
Life isn’t logical.
So yes, I get it. It’s fucking scary. But there are so many benefits of taking a gap year. Not only is it a good option, but I think you should take one. And I didn’t realize until recently that in Europe, gap years are a common thing.
A lot of people travel in their gap year, and that’s great! It might be the only time you get to travel like crazy. But you don’t have to travel to take a gap year. You can work. You can take short courses. Volunteer. Whatever!
So with further or do, this is why you should take a year off before university.
You Gain Perspective
You’ve spent you whole life in school so far; worrying about homework, test scores, the cute boy in math class and if he might ask you to prom. That’s fine, but my mom once told me (when I was a miserable sophomore in high school) that I probably wouldn’t even talk to the people I went to high school with once I graduated. And she was right. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but my point is, high school is not the real world (I apologize, that sounds patronizing). But it isn’t! Taking a year to see everything without the influence of school riding on your back is so freeing. You get to see, instead of being told. Because how many teachers have told us what adulthood is like and what we should pursue as careers? I do love my teachers, but a lot of them made it seem so boring. It was black and white. And life isn’t black and white. And when you start university after, all the high school antics will have disappeared. I knew this, because I went into my freshman year at the University of California Irvine with a very different mindset than my classmate.
You Discover Your Passions (What You Really Want)
I don’t know what you’ll discover, but I guarantee that you’ll discover something. Even if it’s discovering something you don’t want. I’ll try not to repeat myself, but the pressure of teachers and grades and tests (the ACT for god’s sake!) raises so many goddamn expectations! They’re wise, so when they tell you being a doctor is what you should do because you’d be good at it, you probably will pursue that (probably). But do you want to? Are you fooling yourself into thinking it’s what you want? It’s the same notion as the necessity for solitude: we need time separated from external influences to re-evaluate our values and passions. A year away from school allows you to slow down, enjoy life, and figure out what you enjoy. I decided I wanted to do film in that year. And without it, I’d be in my senior year, getting my degree in civil engineering in Boston right now.
It Will Look Good on Your Application
I was terrified that taking a break from school would crush my chances with top universities. In all honesty, yes, I think some schools aren’t a huge fan of students that aren’t coming straight out of high school (this is part of the fault I was talking about). But if you’re not just bumming in your parents’ basement letting popcorn melt on your tongue for 365 days, you could prove something impressive. It doesn’t have to be anything like volunteering at a camp somewhere in Africa. It could be as simple as working at your local cafe for a year. All you have to do, when writing your application, is to explain what was beneficial about it. What did you learn? Why did you decide to take a year off? Did you make at discoveries? Does something you did apply to what you want to major in? You don’t have to lie. In my experience, the time off made me excited to go back to school. As tedious as writing personal statements were, I was much more attentive and I didn’t feel like a machine, stating that I got good grades in high school and played sports. There’s so much more to life that that, and sometimes it’s difficult to see while you’re constantly in school. Make yourself stand out. Talk about something that makes you different from someone who hasn’t taken a gap year. They like that shit.
You Can (Literally) See the World
Tons of students take a gap year to travel. Tons. Students in Europe do this probably 80% more than students in the US (I don’t actually know the statistics just go along with it). I’ve lived in Europe for over 2 years now, and it’s normal, encouraged, to take a year off. Throw your life in a backpack and run around the world. Experience cultures. Eat food. Make friends. And don’t be afraid to travel alone, I love it. Well, what if I can’t afford it? First, let me tell you, travelling isn’t as expensive as everyone makes it out to be (as long as you’re not staying in luxury hotels). But then you wouldn’t be experiencing the culture so much. You can get temporary work in other countries (I’ve known many people to do this). Stay in hostels. Eat cheap. Walk. And if you really need to, take part of your freedom year to work and save up before setting off on a trek of a lifetime.
You Get to Live Life
What, am I not living already? Well, high school is an animal of its own. Once you’re free of it, you can do whatever the fuck you want. Move in with a friend. Get a job you’ll enjoy. Make new friends. You don’t get to be told what to do by teachers or parents (though we do love them, it’s your goddamn life). So what do you want to do? Have you ever thought, it would be really cool to ___? So why not do it now? You’ll come across those things like bills and taxes and other gross things, but then you get used to them. And when they pop up in college, you won’t have a massive panic attack. Seriously, go be free! Once you have your high school diploma, you can do whatever you want with your life.