Many high school seniors want to take a gap year to focus on traveling and self-discovery. But is taking the time off really worth it? A gap year consumes two of your most precious resources, time and money. Here at Your College Sensei, I am all about efficiency. Taking a gap year may not be the most efficient thing to do. In karate I was taught, no wasted movements. Move with intention. This concept doesn’t just apply to the dojo, it applies to life. I don’t want you to waste any movements when it comes to your college education and career.
What Is A Gap Year
A gap year is taking a year off after high school graduation before starting college. How the year is spent differs from person to person. Some might use the time to travel, work, do an internship or volunteer. While this sounds exciting and fun it may not be in your best interest. It’s important to understand how it can impact you and your academic career.
1. You Lose Academic Momentum
The biggest reason I don’t recommend taking a gap year is that it breaks your academic momentum. Reread that. Breaking your momentum can be detrimental. From ages 5 to 18 you are set on an academic path. When you started preschool, you knew you were going to move on to kindergarten. From kindergarten, you knew the next step was elementary school. From elementary, you would go to junior high. After junior high, you would move on to high school. From high school, you go to college. Do you see the movement forward? That’s your momentum. When you continue straight into college, you keep the academic momentum going. You keep with the consistency and notion which led you to graduate each grade and move on to the next.
Since you were young you have developed the habit of studying, learning, and moving on to subsequent grades. If you take a gap year, you break the academic momentum of these beneficial educational habits created over your lifetime. This causes a huge shift in your schooling and puts you at risk of deviating from your academic path. Don’t break this cycle without considerable thought.
Even I Considered A Gap Year
I earned my high school diploma at 16, my AS at 17, my BA at 19, and my MBA at 20. Steadily, I rolled from each degree to the next. My academic momentum was excellent. However, in between my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, I thought about taking a year off and traveling. After all, I was a good student, who focused on my studies and graduated early. I was ahead of the game. I earned it. My family even supported the idea.
But when it came right down to it, I didn’t think that it would be the most beneficial move for me. The biggest reason I chose not to take time off was I didn’t want to break my academic momentum. It was strong and in my favor. I knew statistically that if I took a year off, I decreased my chance of returning to earn my master’s degree. I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that. For me, it was the best decision as it would have delayed not only graduate school but also my career. A gap year would have been a wasted movement for me.
2. Lose The Desire To Return To School
A huge risk that students face when they take a gap year is never returning to school. If you enjoy your time off too much you risk losing the desire to return to your studies. This is a big possibility if you spend your gap year hanging out and chilling. The relaxed routine becomes a way of life. Once you get used to the casual lifestyle it can be hard to break out of it.
3. Taking A Gap Year Can Be Expensive
A gap year can be very expensive. Especially, if you intend to travel. Airfare is pricey and so is the cost of room and board in other states and countries. Meals, transportation, and activities all have to be paid for. The costs of taking a gap year can add up quickly. It can drain your savings and even create debt. The expense of a gap year can impact your ability to pay for college when you decide to go. The money that you would have used on the gap year would be better spent on college. You have to look at it as a financial investment. College is the better financial investment.
4. Taking A Gap Year Can Delay Your Career By A Year Or More
Delaying college, delays your career. Taking a gap year can delay your career by a minimum of one year. This may not seem like a lot, but it is in the workforce. This career delay causes a domino effect and delays you from buying a home, buying a car, starting a family, saving for retirement, investing, traveling, and doing all the things you want to do.
It’s never too early to get a jump on your career. When you start a job you build skills, gain valuable experience, develop and grow a tight network of peers, professionals, and coworkers, and you learn from those in your field. Getting a jump on your career, jump-starts your future. Additionally, it can be difficult to explain employment gaps on your resume. You don’t want gaps to harm your chances of getting hired. It would look much better to show a year of working and going to college.
5. Finding Yourself
The years after high school are a time of growth and self-discovery. This personal growth happens regardless of taking a gap year or heading off to college. As you grow and have new experiences you will find your sense of purpose. You will become more aware of who you are and who you want to be. You don’t need to set time aside to discover yourself. It will happen naturally. A gap year is not necessary.
Even if you don’t know what you want to do in college, that is okay because you have time. I’ve written about how you don’t need to “find your passion” to go to college and pick a major. Actually, when it comes to college, declaring a major, and career, I don’t lead with “find your passion” because unfortunately sometimes our passions are not enough.
I’m not saying passions shouldn’t be pursued. I’m saying that sometimes our passions are not employable and they won’t earn us a good income. Therefore, it’s not necessary to take a gap year. I want you to put passion aside and focus on practicability. Even if you don’t know what you want to do, you can still keep the academic momentum going by starting at a community college or starting with general education at a university. Along the way, you will be able to strike a balance between going to college and figuring out who you are.
Going to class, tests, quizzes, homework, studying, projects, etc, I get that it would be nice to take a break from all of it. But now is not the time to stop focusing on your studies. Now is not the time to break your academic momentum. You only have a few more years left. Put your time and money into college. You can do it.