Sinclair: Gap years are beneficial when done right

Isaac Sinclair

When I came to college, I remember being excited and nervous about what was to come. My future was right in front of me, and I was ready to find out what that actually looked like.

But for others, college can be a daunting task. It can feel like a tall mountain that they can’t climb, whether that’s financially or mentally. College can feel, and be, overwhelming at times.

A solution to ease this pressure is taking a gap year, which means you take a year off between graduating high school and entering college. Before I started researching this topic, I didn’t believe people should take gap years. It seemed like a way to put off school and I worried people wouldn’t return from their academic breaks.

Personally, I would never take a gap year. I know it would be difficult for me to get back into the swing of college life, but I do think gap years have their benefits in certain situations. And that’s an important distinction. In certain situations, gap years can be incredibly valuable to students.

Students should not take a gap year simply because they want a year off of school. Taking a gap year to just sit around and do nothing is pointless, and a sign that you aren’t taking your academic life seriously. Taking a gap year shouldn’t be focused around having fun and being lazy. It should be about doing what’s right for you.

Many people take a gap year to earn enough money to afford college, they don’t feel prepared to go to college or to avoid being academically burnt out. I believe that is a great decision. Making sure you are financially and mentally prepared for college is important, and taking a gap year will allow some people to do that.

However, if you take a gap year, you need to have a long-term plan. You need to be productive in your year off while also being sure you know what your plans and goals are once you come back to college.

That being said, it is good to relax during your gap year. I’m not saying you have to be working all the time and never take any time for yourself. In fact, 96 percent of students who took a gap year said it helped them develop as a person. Having the time to reflect upon life and decide what you want to do with your future is important. You just need to make sure your priorities and plans are aligned with one another if you do decide to take a gap year.

Besides self-development, gap year students do two things important after their break: they come back to school and they perform well. 90 percent of student who took a gap year returned to college within a year, and those that returned tended to have a higher GPA than non-gap year students and be more focused.

When done right, a gap year can help students avoid academically burning out and refocus them on what they actually want out of their life and college experience. I would advise caution when deciding to take a gap year, but if you have good reasons for doing so and have a plan going forward, more power to you. Enjoy your gap year and make sure you come back to college prepared and focused.