For most Americans the traditional next step after graduating high school is enrolling into college. This causes an extreme pressure on high school graduates to continue on being a full time student whether it be from parents, fear of losing heath care, or watching friends go away to college. Many students to fall into the belief that quickly getting through the next four years of college to obtain a degree is the best way to lead to the beginning of career success and the next phase of their lives.
However, dedicating oneself to a university is a task that takes extensive amounts of time with careful and precise planning, which most high school seniors do not have in the busy school year alone. These students may consider taking a gap year. A gap year (otherwise known as a deferred year or year off) is a period of time in which students take a break from formal education in order to travel, volunteer, study, intern, work, perform research, or any combination of these activities. A gap year can be immensely beneficial to students to gain a sense of identity, improve their education, and help strengthen their career choice.
With a gap year students are able to gain independence, maturity, and an identity. Students must experience real world situations in order to gain insight and a better understanding of the world around them. Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson participated in the independent study of 280 gap year students resulting in the three highest related outcomes of a gap year: being able to have a sense of students gaining who they are, other countries and cultures, and more knowledge on choices they want to make later in life ( ). This validates the positive outcomes achieved during the life gaining experience during their gap year.
Similarly, Andrew King from the department of sociology at Kingston University in London discusses the significance of identity work when understanding the outcomes of a gap year (King 341). Through his research King found that taking a gap year restored students’ confidence, independence, and maturity (King 354). With establishing these characteristics, students feel more comfortable and equipped to take on the tough years of college ahead of them. Students who take a gap year show better results throughout their college years.
This time off can be used efficiently in order to study for crucial tests such as the ACT or SAT. A study conducted by two economists at the University Western Australia, Elisia Birch and Paul Miller found that gap year students scored on average 2. 3% higher on first year university marks and male students (who were underachievers during their high school years) scored a remarkable 3. 7% higher when taking a gap year. Not only did test results improve with time well spent during their gap year but students became more dedicated and enthusiastic about their work.
In the same study it was found that with returning to college students had reignited their passion for learning and a better ability to connect formal education with real world experiences (Birch and Miller). These results can be associated to the newly found sense of purpose in college students obtain during their gap year rather than just tagging along on the customary education path. Students who take time to explore their own interest during the gap year have a more gratifying outcome with their career decision.
Most college students change their majors multiple times before finding what profession suits them, but with time off before hand students can go on internships, volunteer, and experience the necessary qualifications it takes to enter the occupation of their choice in order to help determine if it is a possible career path they are interested in. The Milkround, a graduate recruitment firm, completed a survey asking 387 respondents who were already out of college and into the workforce how they felt about their career choice.
Almost 75% reported to be satisfied or very satisfied in their jobs. Likewise, from the earlier study conducted by Haigler it was also found to have an overwhelming report of satisfied career choices from students who took a gap year. These studies confirm that the helpful time off to explore career options can be appreciated and well worth it long after doing so. Although a gap year can be miraculously beneficial to students, it is not often practiced. This may be due to the people who are not comfortable with the thought of taking a year off, in fear that they will not return