According to Wikipedia, the term, “gap year” refers to a “prolonged period (often, but not always, a year) between two life stages. This “gap year” is also known as a “year out”, “year off”, “deferred year”, “bridging year”, “overseas experience”, “time off” and “time out”. Taking this time off is actually very popular in Europe and Australia where young adults are encouraged to take a break before or after college. Graduates are urged to take on meaningful experiences during this time for personal exploration before moving to the next life stage of career.
If you are not sure what your next career or grad school option should be. Think about incorporating a “gap year” experience into your overall career strategy.
Is the “gap year” a good alternative for you? The answer of course is – it depends. You will want to weigh the pros and cons of taking this time off.
Pros of a Gap Year experience
1. Great way to explore careers and get more clarity about what to pursue
2. You may be tired of school and would not do well in classes if you jumped into college right away. Taking the time to do something meaningful might save you spending on college and then dropping out.
3. You might be able to work to save some money before returning to school.
4. Traveling could help you to explore geographical options and other cultures.
5. Many colleges are actually very excited about recruiting students who have had meaningful gap year experiences. I know students who got into their top schools by spending time doing things like wwoofing, starting a business and starting a music festival.
Cons of a Gap Year experience
1. You may never want to return to college or further your education if you languish in this “gap year”. This is probably the most common advice you will hear for not taking a break.
2. Once away from school you could lose touch with professors and others who encourage you to further your education.
Some colleges understand this urge that college graduates have and are now getting on board with innovative programs to meet the needs of these students. A recent article in the US News outlines “gap” year plans from Princeton University in New Jersey for incoming freshman.
The gap year concept is so significant that Princeton University is planning to send 10 percent of their incoming freshman admitted to the school overseas for a year to work in the social services. They will actually do this before these freshman students even set foot on the Princeton campus.
Here are some great articles on study abroad programs if you are looking for meaningful ways to spend your “gap” year after college.