In a world that is constantly pushing students forward as fast as possible, taking a year off from college may seem like a terrible idea.
Except, it really isn’t, especially if students are planning on pursuing graduate studies after they earn their bachelor’s degrees.
I graduate this year with my bachelor’s, and you can bet your bottom I’m taking the year off. After four years of intense study and racking my brain about the deeper meanings of books, I’m willing to put off grad school for some recovery time.
But that doesn’t mean I’ll be lazing around my house in my Hello Kitty pajamas watching rerun after rerun of the “Real Housewives of Whatever City.”
Taking a gap year, as they call it across the pond, is incredibly beneficial if students use it to gain on-the-job experience that will set them apart on their curriculum vitaes (which is basically a resume in the academic world). For instance, I want to teach English abroad in my gap year. Not only will this push me outside my comfort zone and force me to embrace new experiences, but it will also look good when I’m applying for teaching assistantship programs that will help pay for grad school.
For students majoring in communication or business, an internship is a great way to build connections and gain experience before rushing to apply for the big public relations job or diving into an MBA program.
And if students plan on pursuing graduate studies in health science, like medical school or dentistry school, a year off volunteering their medical skills in countries with low resources can help them stand out as well.
But before students make the decision to take a year off and spend it abroad or interning, they need to be honest with themselves about why they’re taking the year off.
According to the website The Career Center, a gap year shouldn’t be used as “a buffer from the ‘real world.’” Don’t use a gap year to put off the job search or as a way to temporarily placate fears about the real world.
Also, don’t lose focus of the end goal, whether it’s a law degree, a master’s degree or whatever other fancy degree or job takes extended schooling and time to earn. A gap year is a stepping stone to gaining further experience and knowledge to help you move forward in your career plans, not backward.
However, if students can stay focused and find worthwhile experiences, taking the year off can be a great way to gain new experience, strengthen the resume, and heal the mind from the trauma of a four-year degree.