Back in 2014, freshly graduated from high school, I decided to pack my bags and go to a college out of state. Unprepared for the year ahead of me, I was nowhere expecting college to be like it was. Don’t get me wrong, every college experience is different…but the adjustment affected my mental health more than I ever could imagine. I ended up making the decision to drop out and head back home at the end of the year. My parents, friends, and roommate were all completely shocked and didn’t know what to say to me. After a lot of talking, people accepted it but I knew taking a gap year was the best thing for my mental health. I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. Long story short, after a year, I attended a community college and obtained my Associates degree in Education. It was not until my senior year in a four year university that I discovered that I didn’t want to be a teacher.
I changed course again and followed my heart to become a writer. I ended up graduating in 2021 with my Bachelors in Writing with a minor in Education and a certificate in Spanish. However, if it wasn’t for taking a gap year, I’m not sure I’d be in the place I am today. I want to share further with you about the pros and cons of taking a gap year. It doesn’t have to be right after you graduate high school, it can be during the middle of college or toward the end. Taking a gap year is there when you need it.
Believe it or not, I gained a lot of experience taking a gap year. I worked 3 jobs at once at one point in order to make myself financially stable; however, I wanted more time to focus on myself. I ended up working at Shoprite for about six months and learned a lot from the people who worked there. I watched a coworker who was struggling everyday, finally get a promotion that he deserved with his whole being. I saw a lot of mistreatment of staff at the same time as well, and I took it with me to find a new job. Here are more pros of taking a gap year:
- The ability to travel (I went to three different states!)
- Leisure time to alleviate stress from school
- Less financial pressure as far as paying for school
- Time to refuel and reflect to decide what you want to do
- Freedom to work or do what you want
- A chance to reconnect with yourself
- Gain new perspectives from those who didn’t have or want the opportunity to go to school
The cons from taking a gap year has a lot to do with the amount of judgement that you receive from other people. My parents had a hard time accepting it since I am the second person in the family to graduate from our immediate family. Also, when you’re going back to school, it can be a lot to explain why there’s a gap year. Luckily, if you get the right support system—it’s a seamless transition. So let’s look at the cons:
- Judgement from others
- Difficulty explaining why you left school
- Difficulty readjusting to classes and the course load
- Forgetting the basics of writing and mathematics (unless you practice while being on your gap year)
- Fear and anxiety about returning to school
Making the Decision
According to Inside Higher Ed: “Survey finds that 40 percent of incoming freshmen at four-year colleges are likely or highly likely not to attend.” So if you’re thinking about taking a gap year, you’re not alone—especially with the recent events of the pandemic. The only person that can make the decision is yourself and you should not let anyone tell you otherwise. Getting your education is vital; however, I highly suggest just live for a little while until you start your next chapter. Volunteer, start your own business, blog about your adventures, read 40 books in a year…challenge yourself. Be the person that you want to be starting your first year or going back to school. I am a huge advocate for higher education and this is a great article explaining why from another writer here. Remember, your mental health is most important. Everything else follows.