Do you know all the ways a gap year can help you grow?
If there are three or four good reasons rattling around in your head for taking a gap year –here are 10 more, and perhaps a few you haven’t thought of…
Gap years can help you:
1) Grab an unexpected job.
Students often take a gap year because they are not sure what they want to do and worry they’ll waste expensive college time noodling around. So, a gap year gives them some time off to consider career options. Perhaps more than that, a gap year can unexpectedly lead to a fantastic job – or connections that result in one later. Helen Taylor is convinced her experience got her a position as a sublieutenant in the British Navy and struggling student Craig Ferriman’s unexpected position on a newspaper in South Africa led to his career in news.
2) Boost your health.
Just about everyone who has taken a gap year or will tell you that the experience is good for emotional health – allowing young people who are caught up in the high stress transition years to take a break and size up their lives and the next step. But often a year away from stress and bad eating, with more physical activity and a conscious effort on diet (or living in a culture with better eating habits) can mean you get in shape. It might be more important than you think, especially when the first year of college often seems to be so unhealthy.
3) Make an impact.
Often those considering gap years are altruistic, but really helping somewhere may not be the first thing on your and mind when so much is churning around in there. There are hundreds of options for putting in some time helping others (or the world) and it can give the time off more meaning, more value on the resume – and will probably be something you’ll never forget.
4) Find your new BFFs.
College is a fantastic time meet new people, but a gap year broadens that experience from meeting people in college generally like yourself to include people who are very different. “Since you don’t have room in your bags for lots of material souvenirs, you instead focus on having the best possible experience and connecting to people you meet,” says student Molly Montgomery, who taught in France. “Airlines don’t charge extra for bringing home good memories.”
5) Fail forward.
To get accepted to your dream school, you have must be perfect, or at least strive for perfection. It’s a long process. You spend 12 long years honing the skills needed to be labeled as a great student. But many gap year experiences allow you to plunge in do something refreshing at this point in your life – make mistakes and trying new things. A gap year can stretch your limits, build confidence, and teach you just how far you can really go. Eric Hollenberg, a Harvard student who was asked by the school to take a gap year, says being in a position to screw up was one of his favorite things about his gap year. “You’re old enough to be considered an adult, but no one expects anything from you…you’re not expected to have everything figured out.”
6) Gain a new perspective
Students who take gap years regularly report that they value college or graduate school or a job more after the time off. As one gap year student put it, “After a gap year, I wasn’t in college just because I thought I should be.”
7) Organize like a pro
Students who learn to handle travel, a job and the practical work that a gap year typically provides, usually get better at executive function – all those skills for staying organized, getting places on time and getting things done, which many of us lack coming out of high school and most of us need going into college. You’ll probably manage money better too.
8) Make a change.
You might change directions – sometimes young people choose to do something entirely different career wise after this year away – or you might change yourself. There are a lot of unusual gap year options and experts say it expands your thinking about options
9) Gain confidence.
In a recent survey, American Gap Association asked students what they gained from their experience. As you’d expect, the top three responses were, helped me develop as a person, allowed me time for personal reflection, and increased my maturity. About 98 percent of the respondents saw those results. But 96 percent also said that they “gained more self-confidence”, which you might expect, but perhaps not at such a surprisingly high rate.
10) Give you a unique story.
In casual conversations or important ones – such as when you apply for a job or interview at college or try to impress a date.
Written by Jim Paterson
Jim Paterson is a writer and editor who specializes in issues related to education and counseling. He has written for the Washington Post, USA Today Weekend, Parent Magazine, Baltimore Magazine, Washingtonian, Counseling Today, School Counselor Magazine, Colleges and Careers, Teen Life, Journal of College Admissions, Principal Magazine and a wide variety of other counseling and education publications. He has also been a school counselor for the past eight years, headed a counseling department and last year was named “Counselor of the Year” in Montgomery County, Md., just outside Washington, DC. Learn more about jim at: www.otherperplexity.com and www.jimpaterson-ea.com