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The UnCollege Blog

Why a Gap Year is More Than “A Year Off” From School

New studies from the American Psychological Association show that taking a gap year can actually motivate you to continue your education and find your interests. Colleges and universities are getting more competitive, thus leading to higher admissions standards and more rejection letters sent out every year. So what can a gap year offer you? As studies show, taking a gap year can give you the opportunity to learn and grow.

These days, the so-called ‘normal’ path is following the three-step path to adulthood: high school leads to college, and college leads to the professional world or, as we like to call it, the “real world.” But for a lot of students, one crucial step is missing – finding and identifying fields that you want to work in, especially those that you enjoy and can make you enough money to survive. That’s hard enough as it is, but taking a gap year to “revitalize your mind” can prove extremely beneficial both in an academic sense and in a personal sense. Whether you fine tune your language skills and experience a new culture, or do research, study, and live the history of your local surroundings, a gap year is a way to understand what you’re truly interested in.

Though gap year programs have been popular in other countries for decades, the United States is finally warming up to the idea of this important detour from the traditional classroom. As David D. Burstein writes, there is an “overwhelming and intensifying pressure put on high school students to get into a great college.” The option of going to college presses fast-forward on our lives, because if you’re not moving forward in the traditional sense you are often seen as idle. And we, in America, consider being idle as absolutely terrifying. But a gap year isn’t a time to be idle, it’s a time to think for yourself, focus and develop both personally and professionally. Burstein is a great example of what a gap year can do. He put college on hold and pushed himself to find his calling. After producing his own film, Burstein created a group to help get the upcoming generation more involved in the current political landscape. Though many people might view it as taking time off, Burstein perfectly notes that in life you are never in fact, taking any time off from education – it’s simply a different path.

The number of students taking a gap year continues to increase every year. Most colleges suggest looking into taking a gap year and defer their admission to the following year, and schools like Harvard even encourage students to do so. More and more students are taking the opportunity to get out and experience opportunity for themselves. The big life decisions will still be there after your program has finished – but the gap year isn’t designed to escape those realities. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Like David Burstein, returning to take on college after a gap year will probably leave you “older, wiser, and a few steps ahead.” At the end of the day, education is there to provide you with an opportunity to succeed. If a gap year can put you in front of your peers, it might not be such an ‘alternative’ to education, after all.

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