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A gap year is an exceptional opportunity for young people to plan a route for their life journeys. Students mostly take a gap year after graduating from high school before entering college or sometimes after completing a bachelor’s degree. During this time, they try to become aware of what they want to do in the future, choose the right college major, gain the necessary hands-on experience, and prepare themselves for the future life hardships. Youngsters contemplate their personal goals and values, gain confidence, and develop independence.
There is a wide variety of options of how to spend a gap year, including independent traveling, volunteering, working (either home or overseas) and learning useful skills. In cases when test results turn out to be disappointing, high school graduates can devote this time to improve their knowledge and retake the exams. According to the statistics, 63% of the US high school graduates take a gap year because they get too pressured at school to take the right future step (American Gap Association, 2014).
Some students take advantage of this year to turn to the subjects they had not been able to learn at school. They join different classes at home or abroad to study languages, music, drama, information technology, conservation, and other disciplines. Such studies help to realize their potential and explore the things that appeal to them, thus alleviating the problem of choosing the future college major and career.
A lot of graduates tend to travel during their gap year. This option looks very attractive, as it offers time to escape from studies and every day routine and travel to different parts of the world. Students broaden horizons, get acquainted with other cultures and traditions, and therefore, become more open-minded. During their travels, young people learn to value the beauty of nature and become aware of environmental preservation. They enjoy picturesque views and beautiful sights, take delight in magnificent landmarks, meet a lot of interesting people, and make a plethora of friends. The gained impressions stay in their memory forever. Moreover, while travelling, they look at their home from a new angle and start to appreciate everything they took for granted earlier.
However, travelling costs money, and not everyone can afford it. That is why students combine travelling and work. There are a lot of opportunities of making money while wandering around the globe. First and foremost, American graduates can become English teachers in the countries where English is not a native language. It is an excellent way for future teachers to start being engaged in the profession, as it gives the chance to develop social, community and language skills. Apart from teaching, the range of employment opportunity embraces different fields, including agriculture, service sector, nursing and many others. Regardless of where young people work, they get hands-on experience that boosts their resumes and overall perspectives on life. On the other hand, the wages do not only cover the expenditures of the vacations but also enable to collect money for further college education.
Some students use a gap year to challenge themselves in new conditions far from their home and families. They want “to accomplish something without much help from others” (O’Shea, 2013, p.15). They are willing to take part in various volunteering projects related to environmental conservation, animal welfare, education, health promotion, childcare, building, sustainability, and others. Very often young people work in developing countries. This experience helps them to understand all the horrors of poverty and necessity to struggle with it. It is rewarding because youngsters realize that they can contribute to improvement of the modern world, which is a long way from perfection.
Furthermore, a gap year sometimes helps to deal with psychological and stress-related problems, namely depression and eating disorders. The students who were lucky to avoid such problems admit: “The gap year is the only light I can see out of this tunnel”, “I needed a change, and the gap year was a way to change everything” (O’Shea, 2013, p.18). They are unanimously claiming that this year made them look at the world in a different way, get over their disorders, and gain self-sufficiency. According to the statistics, 63% of the US high school graduates take a gap year because they get too pressured at school to take the right future step (American Gap Association, 2014). Taking a gap year helps them to concentrate on making the right choice.
However, there is a lot of skepticism as to the benefits of a gap year. For instance, such a long time off studies can weaken students’ motivation and passion for learning and delays the graduation from college. As a result, the students are at risk of losing study habits and discipline. Those who have been able to earn a decent sum of money can conclude that they do not have to spend years on trying hard to get a good education.
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However, 90% percent of students after a gap year return to college (American Gap Association, 2014). Most of them get satisfied with their jobs and are sure that this year helped them to choose the right path towards the future career. They show a better performance at colleges and graduate with higher grade point averages than their peers who entered colleges straight after finishing schools (American Gap Association, 2014).
All in all, taking a gap year is a thing worth doing. It is no good hurrying while choosing the future career because it is an integral part of a person’s life. A gap year is an excellent chance to take a break and relax before taking a plunge. Undoubtedly, the advantages overweigh disadvantages and pay off all the possible risks.