I (Jonathan) have been teaching a long time—almost 31 years—and hear more and more about students wanting to take a gap year after they graduate from college. As you all know, everything has its pros and cons, and taking a gap year is no exception.
Let’s start with the pros-—the reasons I hear from students wanting to a gap year. Keep in mind that these reasons overlap:
1) “I need a break!“ There are some students who are “burned out” (a state of mental fatigue caused by overwork or stress) from their 15 years of school. These students need the year off to mentally prepare for the future. Let me add that I was someone who had no breaks in their schooling, and I wish I had taken a gap year to get my head together before I started graduate school.
2) “I want some time to travel and experience the world”. Some students who say this may be burned out, but others are not. They just want to do something new and exciting right after graduating, understanding that chances to travel and experience other cultures (e.g., working for the Peace Corps) are usually limited once they pursue graduate school or a career.
3) “I need money to attend graduate /professional school.” Keep in mind that there are some individuals lucky enough to get financial assistance to go to graduate/professional school. However, the vast majority of students will need to pay (sometimes a lot) for tuition or living expenses.
4) “I need time to prepare for applying to graduate/professional school”. Students mention that they can bolster their record by securing a job or internship, studying for a standardized exam (e.g., GRE, MCAT, LSAT), or having time to deal with the application process itself (i.e., writing a Personal Statement).
Source: Image by 5688709 on Pixabay
Now to the cons of taking a gap year:
1) By definition, taking a year off from your education delays starting a career.
2) Unless you secure a job with health benefits, you will lose your student health insurance coverage—perhaps you can get on your parent’s plan.
3) Be aware that you might experience a loss of motivation for going back to school once you are no longer taking classes.
After presenting the pros and cons of a gap year, you will need to decide what is best for you. This is a tough one. Talk to others–parents, friends, teachers, and advisors—so you can make a truly informed decision.
The comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.