Should I Take a Gap Year?

gap_year-150129So you are about to graduate from high school and you find yourself wondering, “What’s next?” For some, the immediate path to college makes the most sense; for others, it doesn’t. It often seems normal for 18-year-olds to not even bat an eye at the notion of going directly from high school to college. But what if there were a different approach?

What is a gap year?

You’ve probably heard of it. A gap year is exactly what it sounds like: a gap between two different times in your life—usually the time between high school graduation and college. They look different for everyone, but here are two common options:

The travel option. This is a great way to spend a year, taking the opportunity to see the world, have new cultural experiences, and learn different ways of living around the globe or in your own country. There are also missions organizations that offer unique programs that enable you to serve domestically or internationally. These can provide valuable experience and show just how big and diverse the world is.

The working option. Going to school right away just might not work financially for everyone. Taking a year to work and earn money can help dramatically in the years to come. Finding a steady job and working as much as possible can allow you to save up for your college education, while also gaining real-life experience.

So is a gap year right for me? 

If you’re thinking about whether or not to take a gap year before heading off to college, consider these questions.
Do I know what I want to study in college? If you know what job you want in the future, jumping right into college could be a more direct track to reaching that goal. If you don’t know what you would like to study, taking a year to learn more about yourself and your passions can be life-changing, and it can help you have a better your college experience once you do start.
Do I need a break? The truth is for some people “taking a break” from education becomes permanent, and they never jump back in after they stop. If you’re like this, keeping the ball rolling into college can be a good way to continue the momentum you just built graduating from high school. If you are extra motivated but you just feel like you need time to regroup before a significant life transition into college, take a break. Use that time productively in work or other experiences, but use it to take some time off from the books and studying.
Where will my college finances come from? Take some time to think about this. Will you be taking out loans? Did you get a bunch of good scholarships? Will your parents be helping you out? Accessing your financial situation can help you know if taking a year to work a job will set you up for success in college.
What’s my motivation for my decision? What’s causing you to lean one way or the other? Are you going to college just because it’s “normal?” Are you going on a mission trip just for the pictures? Are you working in your hometown because you are afraid of the transition? These things aren’t necessarily good or bad, but they can tell you a lot about yourself. It’s important to make a conscious, informed decision, and it’s helpful to think about your thinking.

You’re facing a difficult decision. It can feel like the whole world depends on it. But allow yourself some time to figure things out–and show yourself some grace, too. It might take you a year or two to find your place. You’ll probably make mistakes. But it’s all part of the process, and it can all cause you to grow.

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