By: Niharika Palep
Over the past few years, a trend that has been making its way through the masses of high school students around the world, is the concept of taking a ‘gap year’ after your high school graduation. What is a gap year? Often after completing Grade 12 and obtaining a high school diploma, some students take a year-long break instead of directly jumping into university life for a plethora of reasons. For some it’s a way to let off steam before jumping back on the bandwagon again while others use the year to pursue educational or recreational hobbies and goals that they may not have the time for later on in life. Whatever the reason may be, it is important to consider your motive for wanting to take a gap year carefully, as it could make or break the value of the year.
Taking a gap year is the perfect opportunity for those who are interested in pursuing their hobbies or passions to develop on their chosen dream and gain invaluable skills and experiences from it. Perhaps you’re a theatre student with a talent you never got to showcase in school. Take the year off to act in different play productions happening around you or even abroad. Or perhaps you’re one exam away from completing a professional dance certification but had to put it off because of the crushing pressure of high school assignments and examinations. Pursue your passions. Take the exam. Earn your professional certification. You never know when a hobby may become something you wish to pursue as a career in the future. And without trying, how will you ever know?
During a gap year, students often use the time to travel the world and gain new experiences by meeting new people and immersing themselves through a variety of different cultures. Not only will this boost your cultural development and character as a human being immensely, it will also broaden your perspective of the world. However, travelling can be very expensive and while you may not realise this now, in the future the opportunity costs for this may be colossal, especially if your motive behind travelling the world is to simply let off steam after working hard in high school. On the plus side, a gap year is the perfect time to get a job and earn some money for yourself.
There are several major risks that come with taking a gap year, including the risk of losing academic momentum. While some students may return after a year’s break feeling refreshed and motivated to study again, there are others who may lose their academic momentum completely. After spending a year away from the stress of books and exams, students may not wish to ever go back to that life again, making the transition to university extremely difficult. Moreover, you’ll end up being one year behind all your peers and while this may not seem like a big deal, it can be a very challenging idea for some people to get used to.
Planning is an integral part of taking a gap year. A year is a long time and if not planned properly, there is a possibility of wasting a lot of valuable time. Before you consider taking a year off, make a list of all the possible things you could do during this time, planning the year perfectly to avoid facing a productivity vacuum. You may have a passion for the arts or a particular sport but it’s of no use if you don’t channel it effectively into experiences and projects that are beneficial to you. Operationalisation is key, without it all you have is a dream that's never going to amount to anything, other than regret.
The beauty of taking a gap year is in the experiences that make up your gap year. Firstly they teach you invaluable life lessons and how to live independently and deal with real world issues, making you much more prepared for university life than you would have been fresh out of high school. Whether you pursue a hobby or take up a job or internship or even volunteer at a charity, each experience adds to your CV making it look impressive not only to universities but also potential employers in the future.
Taking a gap year is a decision that comes with many benefits, but the risks are unending. In the end, it depends on each person and why you want to take a year off, and most importantly what you’re going to do with it. You may plan a perfect year but still end up losing out on so much or you could have the best time of your life as it is truly a once in a lifetime experience. Think about it carefully. Choose wisely.