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For some, a gap year can increase focus and provide perspective that propels them to success.

“What do you mean, you are taking a gap year?”, said every parent presented with this situation. Once a high school student graduates, they should go straight to college, right? I mean, that is the long-established expectation, isn’t it? But in a 21st century society as complex as ours, is this something we should rethink on some level? Take it from someone who floundered around a bit flowing high school, a little pause can have a financial and directional benefit. Of course, it depends on the lid and the situation, but here are a few thoughts on where there could be some value to a gap year.

Young People Are Still Discovering Who They Are

Not every high school graduate has a well developed sense of self when they walk across that stage. Anyone over 30 can tell you that the person they were at 18 was different than the person they were at 21 or 22. One starts a path in college that is different to reverse. Once a student is inside of those courses in their major, there is usually too much time and/or effort invested to turn back.

A survey by BestColleges revealed that 61% of college graduates would change their majors if they could go back. Also, emerging science about our brain development suggests that most of us don’t really reach full maturity until the age 25. If used properly, a gap year can provide a young person the opportunity to truly explore their “true north” and pursue an education that best aligns with their value set. At the very least, it pushes back the timeline for “mind changing” by a year so that it does not happen a year or two into failing chemistry courses when they would be better suited studying microeconomic theory (perhaps I am projecting here).

Gap Year to Improve and Refine Work Ethic

Not every student leaves high school with good study habits and the discipline to balance work with play. And if everything came easy in high school, they could be headed for a rude awakening when asked to cover and take notes on 6 chapters and produce a 5-page written report. Every week. In just 1 class.

A gap year can be a good time to master study and comprehension techniques, time management, and test taking skills. College freshmen with poor study habits tend to experience difficulties because of a lack of oversight, as there is no longer a teacher or parent holding them to task. In this case, the result tends to be course failures and the loss of 1 or 2 semesters. And guess what? That tuition isn’t refundable, parents. Good use of that gap year can be made by learning when one tends to comprehend material better, scheduling study periods to coincide with those times, and holding oneself to that schedule. Your student can learn to set specific goals to aid in staying focused and monitoring progress. 

Gap Year Can Provide Real-world Perspective to Classroom Concepts

If there is one thing that can derail the comprehension of a concept for a college student, it is not knowing that concept’s real-world application. Some exposure to real life can provide an excellent pretext to the concepts that will be learned in the classroom. An article by The IDEA Fund notes: “Relevance is a major component of many motivational models and particularly important if learners’ experiences can be used as a basis for new learning.” It goes on to say: “If prior experience can be connected to new material in a meaningful way, that material can be more clearly understood and more easily learned.” Consequently, your youngster now becomes the de facto expert on real-life situations in the classroom as well.

Gap Year to Let Them Burn Off the Party Energy – But OFF Your Dime

Most of you know by the time they cross that high school stage whether you have a party animal on your hands or not. Do you REALLY want to pay for your kid to attend “ragers” and binge drink 4 times per week while posting all “Fs” in their freshman courses? Consider letting them exhaust that energy and get it out of their system. Perhaps they can hold down a job to pay for their own party habits, but that freshman year’s tuition has a better chance of bearing fruit if they are not repeatedly upside down over a keg. According to ValuePenguin.com, the average cost of a public college education in the US is $9,970 for in-state tuition and $25,620 for out-of-state tuition. Save that scratch if you are sure they’re headed for a rocky opening to that collegiate career.

Conclusion

Of course, knowing one’s own child is key to whether the gap year works out . You have to be confident you will be able to get them to return, as well as know they will use the time wisely. Some schools even have gap year deferred admission policies that allow students to keep their spots once admitted. A young person can really broaden their horizons by learning a new language, volunteering time overseas, or even earning college credit while studying abroad. Another potential negative to consider is the long-term cost of late work force entry. Graduating one year later means losing the equivalent of that first year’s meaning potential. But if a struggling opening year was in the cards anyway, considering the gap year isn’t a bad idea.

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