Why Taking a Gap Year Isn't a Setback

During my senior year of high school, I knew that after graduating I needed a major change of pace. There’s no doubt college would be a big change with living away from my family in a new city, but I had only a vague idea what I wanted to major in and the idea of trying to figure everything out all at once was not only stupidly stressful, but impossible. So, I decided to apply for a scholarship so that I could spend a gap year studying abroad in Germany and somehow the universe made it all fall perfectly into place.

Almost everyone who has taken a gap year or has lived abroad will say that it was worth all of the hassle that no one seems to mention. Dealing with deferring college admission, scholarships, success stress from the pressure to be young and accomplished and still maintaining friendships with all your friends who aren’t taking a gap year are exactly the kind of things that most people don’t think about and what people want to avoid by taking a gap year. Not to mention trying to convince your family and friends (and maybe yourself) that a year off is a good thing, and being a year “behind” isn’t going to set you back.

But don’t worry, it won’t! That is, if you spend it doing something you love or building your career. Gap years are not exclusively for the indecisive, and they can be a great way to travel while you can, get valuable work experience or get a jumpstart in your field working as an intern. There are tons of opportunities and programs around the world that have so much to offer. Although some programs also feature some steep program fees, there are ways of finding scholarships or a work and travel program that makes your financial situation a little less stressful. Especially when money is involved, it’s important to remember that taking a gap year is just as much of  a commitment as deciding on a college, and it’s not an excuse to slack off on a year-long vacation.

The best thing about taking a gap year is that the possibilities are endless for how you can spend your time.There isn’t really a wrong way to do it as long as you’re  enjoying what you’re spending your time on and have a plan for what you can do after that experience.

One thing that most people don’t understand about a gap year is that it’s not an outlet to run from your problems or stress. This is a dangerous misconception that will only set you up to fail. If you’re planning on attending college after your gap year, completely avoiding your problems and the stress that goes into college adulthood isn’t going to work out in long run, even if you think time will take care of it. It will only be harder when you have to come back to it. Even if your reasoning isn’t about college but a person who isn’t good for you or environment you want to get out out of, there are healthier and more effective ways than avoidance. You don’t want to waste a great opportunity worrying or thinking about old problems.

Taking a gap year is about getting real life experiences that make you more of your own person and give you a little bit of an edge by the time you get to college. You get extra time to figure out what genuinely interests you, you learn more about yourself, and to make connections with people. Taking a gap year was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and it definitely impacted a lot of my interests and my personality in a positive way. I also met some of my best friends and now have another place in the world where I feel at home. Even though I didn’t spend my time working towards a degree or really working on anything besides learning the German language and culture, I learned more from that experience then I ever would’ve spending that time in college. If anything, my gap year got me more prepared and excited for college and life in general. Going to college a year older made zero difference when meeting new people and technically I wasn’t behind at all. I was on the same track as everyone else in the class of 2019 with the goal of graduating with a degree in four years. I also have a unique experience to add onto my resume that sets me apart from other candidates, something interesting to talk about in job interviews and it has lead to great  connections with other people on campus who had a similar experience.

So collegiettes, if you know any high school grads who are just not feeling going right back into school, definitely encourage them to take the path less traveled.Whether you’re traveling, working or interning, when you put in the effort it’ll be a great experience and the foundation of all your future success.

In case you weren’t already convinced, here’s an article about how even Malia Obama is getting in on the trend and why Harvard encourages it.