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Myths About A Gap Year That Aren't True

Updated on November 23, 2017
CaitBooth profile image

Caitlyn didn't always like school, but that doesn't mean she didn't learn a thing or two.

So It's That Time...

Senior year. The final year of schooling before we are officially in the adult world. It's one of both relief and high stress, and depending on who you are, extreme cases of laziness. (Also known by most students as "senioritis")

One of the big questions everyone starts asking students around Junior and Senior year is: What are you going to go to college for? Most students either mumble about community college, or claim to have some major in mind, but know deep down that they just aren't sold entirely on it, but the truth is a lot of the time, no one is sure of where they are going in their life.

Contrary to common belief, that's perfectly normal.

Everyone struggles to make such an important decision, and sometimes more time is needed to figure out interests, talents, career preferences, and pick up experience in the adult world. That's where a gap year comes in.

Now, it is often debated among people whether taking a year off of school between high school and college is beneficial for students or not. On the one hand, trying to remember all the information learned in school that are needed in order to qualify for certain classes after a year or so out of the classroom is nearly impossible. Refreshers may need to be taken before getting back in the chair.

On the other hand, however, if someone just has no idea what they want do post-high school, or maybe someone really wants to gain some work/world experience rather than poking around in books for four or more years, passing up on higher education for self-discovery and recovery from the mental strain is extremely beneficial.

It is a personal debate everyone should seriously have with themselves once the high school stress passes off. Each situation is different, and this isn't for everyone, but it is an option that shouldn't be looked down upon either.

What is a Gap Year?

Google defines a gap year as the following: "a period, typically an academic year, taken by a student as a break between secondary school and higher education."

Sometimes more than a year is necessary, but generally, a gap-year is time off between high school and college in order to gather money and experience, or learn more about one's self and the adult world.

The most common reasons to take a gap-year include:

  • Wanting a break from the day-to-day classroom environment
  • Working in order to gain experience/make money for school
  • Personal growth/discovery
  • Uncertainty of future endeavors
  • Go abroad to explore/gain experiences

So what are the myths many believe about taking a gap year?

Myth #1 About A Gap Year: You Won't Be Successful

In America, it is expected that students go from high school right into college in order to fast track them into the adult world of work and bills, and if any student decides college isn't for them, they won't be successful later in life. While many jobs in America do require a college degree, the time and money put into gaining such doesn't always equal a high salary career and comfortable lifestyle.

"Success" is a personal thing anyway; not everyone holds the same definition of what it means to be "successful".

For example, while society holds that success is money, some might find more family time and decent income to be a success, while yet someone else finds that having a mansion and three cars is success. It's all about perspective.

The saddest thing about college degrees is that some people find out, after four, six, or even eight years in the classroom, their degree is literally worthless in the real world. Not all majors and degrees lead to good jobs, or even a job at all, so be sure to do your research on whichever one you choose.

Summary: You can be successful without college. It takes hard work and determination, but anyone can live a comfortable life without a higher education. Just don't expect too many big name companies to hire you right off the bat.

Myth #2 About A Gap Year: Students Won't Return Back to School

Students who decide they don't want to go to college right away are often told: "If you don't go now, you'll never go back." While statistics can support this claim, it doesn't necessarily ring true in every case. Those are just numbers after all.

Any determined student can break away, explore their options, and then reign themselves in again in order to pass through the classes once again. In fact, time off can help a person concentrate better in school by relieving their mind of the mental strain from six hours of learning five days a week.

Myth #3 About A Gap Year: You Have to Travel International

Whenever people mention a gap year from school, images of plane travel and foreign countries often pop up in their mind. This is not necessarily the case though.

As defined above, a gap year is just a break off, usually from school, taken by young adults. There are no rules as to what this entails, though traveling definitely enriches students with experiences not found in a school building (which is probably why many students try foreign exchange programs in college).

Enriching experiences can be had in country, in state, and even locally depending on where you live. A fancy expensive venture to a foreign country is not mandatory.

Myth #4 About A Gap Year: It Only Applies to Young Adults & College

This entire article centers around the gap year and college, but that is only because of personal experience with it. In actuality, gap years can be taken at any stage of one's life. If someone needs a break from a grueling job, despite the warnings against it, a gap year is the perfect solution.

They can be taken at any point in your life, not just out of high school.

Do Your Research

The above list consists of just a few of the misconceptions about taking a gap year and the negative connotations that often come with the statement "I'm taking a time off college". Obviously, as mentioned before, this is a serious discussion one should have with themselves. School is important, but so is learning real life lessons that you cannot get from a desk and lecture. Balance is the key to life.

This article is not a knock against higher education as college isn't necessarily a waste of time. Medical, education, criminal, and business careers, for example, often require a higher level of education, usually specified to the specific career down the line, in order to properly obtain the skills and knowledge needed to do the job at hand. More specific majors, such as psychology, lead to less employment because the end of the road is narrowed into very limited career choices, so always have a secondary major/minor, and a plan.

Not everyone is at the same stage of self-discovery and has an idea of what they can and cannot do. Not everyone struggles with deciding on a major. We're all different.


Share Your Experiences!

If you have any stories about your college experience, feel free to share below, as well as any questions. We can all learn from each other, no matter where we are in our marathon.

© 2017 Caitlyn Booth

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