Gap Years: Is Taking a Break from School the Way to Go?

Shalin Mehta, Contributing Writer

In today’s educational system, college continues to be a vital part of a student’s learning experience. However, the idea of taking a break from school, commonly known as taking a gap year, has become increasingly popular. Students can choose to take a gap year any time they wish; however, the most popular choice is to take it the year after graduating from high school. Gap years are certainly appealing to many students, but others hesitate because keeping school on pause can be difficult. Nonetheless, taking a gap year can definitely bring many advantages to a student as well.

Taking a gap year may sound like a fascinating experience, but this may be exactly why it could be detrimental to the learning process. According to Michelle Knoll, a writer for Rasmussen College, once students leave the educational environment, “they may never want to go back to the stress, structure, and rigor of academic life.” Other students may end up finding the idea of “making money [by working] as opposed to spending it on tuition” to be an added bonus. Unfortunately, Knoll explains how these students often end up making less than they could have if they had furthered their educations. Additionally, taking a gap year is not a walk in the park. In order to take a full year off of school, one must have a reliable schedule and plan to execute. According to Knoll, many students lack the essential plan and end up simply wasting time and falling behind in their education. Based on these claims, it is clear that although gap years are attractive to many students, the actual experience can come with some drawbacks, which should be considered.

Gap years certainly have shown to benefit students as well. Suzy Strutner, the Associate Lifetime Editor for the Huffington Post, emphasizes that gap years can actually increase student performance when they attend college. She explains how “many schools report that gap year students have higher GPAs and are more involved on campus,” which makes them active and vibrant members of the college. Additionally, gap year students become more accustomed to adapting to new places. Students who study abroad or go on hiatus from school are more likely to become exposed to new languages, cultures, and societies. Strutner explains how “college requires similar adaptation skills,” making the gap year experience worthwhile. Furthermore, some colleges actually reward students who take gap years by providing them with college credit. For example, Elon University offers students a 13-week gap program, which grants students nine hours of academic credit. Some colleges even help students fund their gap years. For example, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill offers a $7,500 fellowship to aid students in financing their gap years so that money is not the main burden that prevents them from making their decision. Finally, analyzing the benefits of gap years cannot be complete without simply stating that they can allow a student to enjoy and make new friends. College can be daunting when it comes to the work load; however, the social life in such an educational setting cannot be underestimated. Strutner explains how making new friends from different countries or new areascan greatly increase one’s perspective on life, which can help one make decisions about one’s career in college.

It is also interesting to note that Malia Obama, Barack Obama’s oldest daughter, has decided to take a gap year before attending Harvard as part of the class of 2021. Despite being the daughter of the American president, her objective is still equivalent to other gap year program participants. However, it is simply fascinating to note that people who wish to take gap years can come from any kind of background, whether it is a small and simple one or a unique one like that of Malia Obama.

Clearly, gap years have both benefits and drawbacks for students. However, at the end of the day, students should choose to take a gap year if they feel that they will gain a lot from it.



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