Gap America defines a gap year as “a structured period of time when students take a break from formal education to increase self-awareness, challenge comfort zones, and experiment with possible careers.”
But at what risk would you be taking a gap year and what benefits would you get out of an extended internship, travel, or personal projects? If you’re considering taking time off of school, be sure to first weigh out these important pros and cons to the gap year.
Be honest with yourself. When you take a gap year for the wrong reasons (i.e., because you’re upset with your school, because you want to relax, or because you’re afraid of failing.) you run a serious risk of losing vital momentum when it comes to working toward a degree. Create a failsafe degree progress plan that keeps a graduation date in mind and not simply “sometime in the future.”
Getting out of the rhythm
One of the biggest benefits school can offer is a structure with set deadlines, schedules and predetermined dates. If you plan on taking a gap year, make sure you know you can be equally diligent on your own as you are when a professor is leading your progress. ACI’s student assistance experts can help you keep you form and keep up with a work schedule.
If you plan to spend a gap year traveling, as many do, or pursuing an internship or apprenticeship it’s important to first weigh out the financial risks. Sit down with your family as well as an academic advisor to assess whether the opportunity is worth the financial risk and, more importantly, think ahead and come up with a one-year financial plan for when you do return from your gap year.
On the flip side of things, gap years can be instrumental in getting ahead in life in general when done for the right reasons. Maybe you feel you’re simply treading water in school because you’re unsure what you want to do, or maybe you want the chance to start working on your own project or company. Either way, understand that a gap year isn’t about relaxing, but working hard on other jobs or projects you’re passionate about.
Whether you’re a STEM student, a liberal arts major, or business student, most can agree that it’s hard to spend four years learning about all these issues happening in society and around the world without actually going out and experiencing them for yourself. Gap years are almost always beneficial when they’re used to go out and learn by doing in your desired field.
Just as it’s not always best to follow the traditional, formal school plan, it can be wise to take a gap year on your own terms. Maybe you simply take a semester off; maybe you take fewer classes for a few terms to focus on personal issues; maybe you just make a resolution to install more you time into your weekly schedule. The important thing to remember is that you’re young and a gap year should be all about what’s best for you and your future.
ACI’s student assistant experts are here to help. Feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or firstname.lastname@example.org. ACI can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, orYouTube.