People typically take gap years before or after college, but they can also be taken at other periods in life. They offer the chance to take time away from academics and explore the world — and job market — while providing a mountain of skills and experiences. As of 2017, more than 35% of students are considering taking a gap year after high school, and the numbers are rising.
Keep reading to discover seven reasons why you should take a gap year.
1. Increase Self-Confidence
Taking a gap year increases your self-confidence. You suddenly find yourself outside of the academic bubble and free to explore new things. As you navigate these new dynamics, your self-confidence will increase, and you’ll believe in your ability to achieve goals.
Self-confidence prepares you for handling challenges with conviction. The fear of setback won’t cripple you — instead, you’ll be ready to make the most of your college experience.
2. Improve Academic Performance
It’s hardly surprising that interest in taking a gap year is continuing to grow. Research shows that 90% of students who leave return to academic studies within a year. They also experience a significant positive impact on academic performance.
This is most likely because they have a chance to rest and enjoy life before returning to school or work. By taking this break, they are avoiding burnout. Burnout occurs when an individual experiences emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion due to prolonged stress.
According to the National College Health Assessment, the majority of college students have reported feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or anxious at some point during their year. This highlights the need for a mental outlet, and taking a gap year offers a way to unwind and return feeling rejuvenated.
3. Learn New Skills
Taking a gap year provides you with the perfect opportunity to learn a new skill. If you decide to travel or volunteer abroad, you’ll enjoy the chance to learn a new language from native speakers. Some languages, like Spanish, French, and Dutch, require only 600 hours of study to reach proficiency — so you could quickly become fluent during your time abroad.
Use the occasion to pursue activities that interest you. You can learn hands-on skills like woodworking, cooking, and scuba diving. You’ll be creating memories that will last a lifetime.
4. Gain Valuable Experience
Soft skills are extremely valuable to employers, and you’ll have a chance to put yours to practice during your gap year. This will make you a standout candidate during future hiring processes, and you’ll be able to expand on how you put those skills to use in the real world.
Skills you can gain through your gap year experience include:
- Conflict resolution
- Time management
- Work ethic
Aquire these skills naturally as you navigate your year away and reinforce them by participating in programs and internships.
5. Develop Your Knowledge of the World
Whether you choose to spend your gap year working in the town next door or traveling to another country, you’ll gain an understanding of how the world operates. You’ll likely have your first taste of balancing time and money without parents or teachers around for support. Through this experience, you’ll cultivate your independence and maturity.
By taking a gap year, you’ll have the chance to learn about different cultures and consider ideas outside of what you’ve grown up with. Your eyes will be opened to the way people live in other parts of the world. Perhaps, you’ll discover that you’d like to complete a study abroad program while in college or pursue a career in international studies.
6. Discover Your Passions
It’s challenging to find your passions while finishing high school and preparing for college. You can try job shadowing and reading online reports, but nothing can demonstrate as well as a real experience. Instead of starting school as an undecided major — or worse, guessing — try taking a gap year. Why would you choose to spend thousands of dollars in school, pursuing a degree that may not be the right fit?
Taking a gap year means you can save money — or make some — while figuring it all out.
7. Give Back to the Community
People do all sorts of things during their gap year. Some choose to travel, work, or pursue internships, while others volunteer. Volunteering during your break can be a great way to give back to the community.
You’ll have a chance to work on personal development while positively impacting the people you meet and the world around you. Many volunteer organizations have international programs, so you can still travel to new places and experience unique cultures.
Taking a Gap Year Could Be Your Best Decision Yet
Only 27% of college graduates have a job that relates to their major. Why rush into college, or a new job, when you can take a gap year? These seven reasons describe how taking a gap year could be the best decision of your life. You’ll have extra time to deepen your personal, professional, and practical understanding of the world, and you’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready for the next chapter of your life.