What am I going to do after high school or college? It’s the question on every school leaver's mind. Maybe some of your friends have talked about taking a gap year, and you’re wondering if you could use a break like this as well. Or you are currently weighing up the pros and cons. We have more than 20 years of experience with gap year students and these are the major benefits they keep raving to us about!
What is a gap year?
A gap year is a break from study or work that some students take to pursue their other interests, dreams and passions. Gap years can be taken for varying durations and at any stage, whether that is right after high school, after college or even during college.
There is no one right way to spend a gap year, it’s totally up to you! Some students choose to fly off to a sunnier place abroad and experience a different culture on a gap year program, while others volunteer at a local charity or do an awesome internship.
1. Personal growth
Personal growth is what it’s all about on a gap year! Research from the Gap Year Association showed that personal growth was the biggest takeaway for gap year students. 98% said their gap year helped develop them as a person, 97% saw an increase of their maturity level and 97% reported an increase in self-confidence.
2. Develop new skills
A gap year is the perfect time in life to do new things and learn new skills. Maybe you have always wanted to play an instrument, pick up wakeboarding or volunteer for an animal sanctuary. Even if the skills are not directly related to your future career, you might find a new hobby or passion to last you a lifetime.
On top of that, you will learn a lot of soft skills on a gap year program that are extremely valuable in the job market. Communication, problem solving and adaptability just to name a few!
3. Learn a foreign language
There are so many ways to pick up a new language these days. Downloading the right app and practising a few words every day is one way to go. Another, tried-and-tested way is to immerse yourself with native speakers.
Want to learn Spanish? There’s about 450 million speakers in the world, so there shouldn’t be a problem there. Just combine an epic trip to Costa Rica, Mexico or Peru with some language instruction and immersion abroad.
4. Meet new people
Whatever your gap year is going to look like, you’re bound to meet tons of new people. Get to know coworkers on your internship, fellow volunteers on your service-learning journey or other gap year students on a program.
When you decide to go on a gap year program abroad, you’re practically guaranteed to make lasting friendships since you’re exploring a country, going on crazy adventures and doing everyday tasks together.
5. Boost your resume
A gap year alone won’t boost your job prospects. If you were considering spending a year playing video games, future employers might not be too impressed with that (unless you’re applying in the gaming industry of course). But a productive gap year will help your resume stand out and is a great talking point at any job interview. Employers love to hear you talk about a volunteering project, an internship or an experience like teaching English in a foreign country.
6. Prepare for college
Some people have known since they were 10 years old what they wanted to be when they grew up, but most people are still figuring it out when they graduate high school. Taking a gap year can give you some breathing space to consider your options and get a better idea of what you want to study before starting college (or if you even want to enter college at all). You will end up making a more informed decision, which is probably why gap year students end up graduating sooner than other college students.
7. Experience different cultures
Taking a holiday to a foreign country is an entirely different experience from actually living in a country. A gap year allows you to truly immerse yourself in a new culture by living, working and volunteering alongside the locals.
You will learn about the culture, expand your global network and develop your worldviews as you go on your road to becoming a global citizen. Later on in life, most jobs only allow you to take a couple of weeks leave at a time, so this might be your last chance to broaden your horizons in this way.
8. Gain work experience
Want to spend your gap year working full time, either locally or abroad? Future employers will love you for it! Gaining experiences specifically related to the career you want, shows them your commitment. It could also give you letters of recommendation and useful contacts for later, while you figure out if this career path is right for you.
9. Have fun!
A gap year is a great, once in a lifetime experience, so don’t let this year go to waste and tick off some things from your personal bucket list. Go scuba diving, hike to Machu Picchu, pick up Mandarin, work with elephants in an animal sanctuary or learn how to make the perfect pizza in Italy. The sky's the limit!
So should you take a gap year?
There is no right and wrong answer to this question. Discuss with gap year advisors, parents, friends and gap year organizations, but you can only make the final decision yourself. Do what’s right for you!
Just don’t decide against it out of fear of the unknown, because being pushed out of your comfort zone is what a gap year is all about. And know that you’re not stuck at any point in time. You can always make changes to the way you spend your time and to the duration of your gap year.
After all these years of sitting behind the school desk, you finally have the opportunity to learn in completely different ways. Instead of reading about the world and cultures in a school book, you get the chance to experience those places first hand. Wouldn’t it be a shame to miss out on that? If you’re looking for a gap year program that combines travelling abroad, volunteering, cultural immersion and many action-packed days, take a look at Pacific Discovery's gap year programs.