A gap year is best described as an academic year in which an individual chooses to take a break from school. Many students take breaks either right after high school or after their four-year degree from college, with plans of higher education.
The year can be spent traveling or freelancing but should always be looked to as a sabbatical. With this long-term break, a student runs many risks such as loss of motivation or momentum in terms of their education.
If the gap year is not spent with an active focus in searching (or funding) for the future, those running risks rise in relevance.
Forbes calls a gap year “a year on” or an “active year away from the traditional high school to college path.” With the goal to return to school in mind, a gap year should be ultimately used by a student for growth, a slight increase in financial stability and a lasting impression of independence or reflection.
As opposed to the flurry of grinding and time crunching of a traditional college term, this seems like a good payout—as long as you return to school.
In a survey of 280 people who took a gap year conducted by Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson of Advance, N.C., 90 percent of students returned to school within a year. A good recommendation to avoid not returning would be to secure admission to a college first and then ask to defer for the first year.
With worries of not returning to school settled, a student still has to figure out how to become productive and make sure that the year isn’t wasted away sleeping or wasting (too much) money. A viable option during the year would be to travel, whether domestic or internationally, and gather some more insight from the world.
In this day and age, however, many college students don’t have the money to make such a commitment. The gap year is sometimes spent doing the exact opposite: working and maintaining a stable income in preparation for the coming years of education.
Taking a year off from education may seem like a student is placing themselves behind but in reality, the gap year can be extremely advantageous and students who think ahead run a much lower risk of not returning to school. Taking a year off isn’t for everybody but maybe it’s for most.