Hello! It’s Johnny. Let’s talk about taking a gap year! A lot of people are thinking about doing it. In fact, taking a gap year is getting more and more popular. That said, some people are afraid to do it, fearing they’ll get “off track” or that others might judge them negatively. As a person who has had not one gap year but many, let me tell you some of the benefits of taking a gap year and what it’s taught me.
Gap Year Statistics: It’s Getting More Popular
- About 8.000 students in the U.S. take a gap year annually.
- On average, students who take a gap year have 23% better grades than those who don’t.
- More than half of students who took a gap said they year felt more confident in themselves.
- 90% of students who took a gap year return to academia.
- 88% of people who experienced a gap year benefited professionally.
Who a Gap Year Is Good For
While all sorts of people might want to take a gap year for any number of reasons, here are some of the kinds of people – those taking a more self paced approach to life – that I think a gap year is particularly suited to.
- People unsure about what they want. Did your parents decide for you that you “want” to go to medical school or law school? Is the thought of writing that application essay making your skin crawl? That might mean that something is off in your life. Maybe you just don’t know what you want yet and could do with a little time to figure it out.
- People who need money. A lot of U.S. universities are extraordinarily expensive. Simply the pricing of textbooks, never mind the tuition, is sufficient motivation for a lot of people to take time off their education to save up money. That’s one of my reasons for waiting a few years before applying to my university. Taking time off my education meant that when I finally committed to study, as a father and husband, I had enough money to provide for my family and even enough money to pay for a good tutor, when I felt ready to commence my studies.
- People who want to try a lot of things. Let’s face it, you might face negative feedback from some traditionalists who think you should be passionate about only one thing from birth to the grave. But it’s your life and maybe you’re passionate about a lot of things. When you take a gap year you can try out different professions or visit different places and test out what you’re good at doing and where you fit best.
- Those who aren’t ready. Hey, it’s okay to admit that there are some things you still want to do. Maybe there’s still a lot of world you’d like to see before committing to a 5-year residency somewhere. Maybe give yourself some private time just for yourself.
My Self-Discovery Process
When I graduated from high school and married Dina, I had zero knowledge about myself and what I wanted to do. I knew this though: not everyone should live by the same playbook. Also, I knew where my priorities were.
My family has always taught me if there’s a decision that will have a long-term impact on my life, it’s better to be 100% sure about it before making it.
While I didn’t know what career I wanted to pursue, I did know that I wanted to raise a family and that that was a priority for me. During my gap year, I realized several facts about myself. I finally acknowledged that some of my interests should remain hobbies. I decided not to pursue my various dreams of becoming a detective, a pilot, and a philosopher. But it turned out that I’m pretty good at managing people.
After not one, but many gap years I decided to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in a management program. I’m now spending many rewarding hours per week studying and learning more about management, psychology, history, anthropology, business basics, and several other interesting topics. After taking free tests I realized that I’m a good listener and that I learn the best with audio material. I also realized that although I’m very people-oriented, I prefer to learn new material alone, in a self-paced environment. I now have a good understanding of myself and what I want in life.
What Years Without College Taught Me
Here’s a list of what I learned due to my gap years:
- Not every good profession requires college. I know that it’s becoming increasingly popular to say that nothing comes for free, but in reality, many things are free. There are lots of free short courses that you can take online, books that you can take out of the library, and skills that can be learned on the job.
- It is important to have time for yourself. A lot of people love nosing into people’s private lives. They’ll tell you that you’re doing this or that wrong or that you’re wasting your time. Remember that these people are just showing you their own insecurities. You deserve time to think about your future.
- Time without formal education brightens your mind. I love learning, but right after graduating high school, I felt like my head was going to explode. I definitely wasn’t feeling motivated to study hard. Time off can guide you out of this situation. Studying becomes a lot easier when you’re feeling motivated.
- A lot of things are easier than you think. We often hear that every step in our lives should be done perfectly and that there’s only one right way to do things. In reality, people are just afraid of leaving the safety of their routines.
Your life won’t crumble just because you decide to take a break.
Ideas for a Gap Year
- Have some rest. Yep, it’s that easy. Visit the parties and holiday events you’ve dreamed about. Sleep a lot. Eat well. Go for a run. Stare into nothingness and let yourself relax.
- Learn something. So maybe instead of picking a major and taking on a full course load, you choose to take just a couple of classes? Instead of going to a college and randomly choosing a major, one of my best friends took one course in landscape design and one course in film studies. He then chose to major in landscape design. You could also just get one-on-one tutoring on a subject that interests you.
- Travel. Think about it: despite every assurance that your life is only getting started after high school, it still seems like society pushes you into taking on a bunch of responsibilities immediately. But what other time in your life will you have a whole year for yourself? When you retire? The best time is now.
- Work here and there. Pick some of the weirdest professions you can find and do them. Try your hand at different jobs to figure out what you like. There are many things you don’t know about yourself yet.
Only You Get to Choose
Whatever you decide to do, here at least is a glimpse of what you might get if you decide to take a year off from the standard path. Of course, think about it carefully, but also cut yourself some slack. Be kind to yourself; it’s your life and you deserve it.