Consider a gap year: You have time to spare

| Managing Editor

The closer senior year came, the more fear and apprehension I began to feel. Up until this point, things had been fairly straightforward. Being a student thus far has meant just that: going to classes, living on campus, working on campus. There are smaller moving parts to being a student that obviously generate their own stress, but the overall plan is simple in itself. As the career path I am seeking requires a master’s degree minimally, I do have some more time to be a student. However, once I do go onto my master’s, my working and living situation can no longer rely solely on the campus. This uncertainty, a variety of other factors and my general energy level have made me decide to take a gap year between undergraduate and graduate education.

It seems to me that America has a sort of work first, life second mentality–an over-exaltation of work ethic as the most valuable trait a person can hold. When I told my parents I wanted to take a gap year, they were not pleased. They thought that I was not showing a proper work ethic and that it was an act of laziness, stressing the fact that it will put me one year further from my career and from making money. In the grand scheme of things, a year is just not that much time. Getting set back one year in completing higher education is worth it if the time off brings benefits to other aspects of your life.

After being in school for sixteen continuous years, it is hard to not feel worn out with classroom settings. Taking a year off to let yourself breathe and to spend time on yourself can allow you to come back with a freshened enthusiasm for education. It is natural to fear that you will lose momentum and not finish your education, but as long as you are passionate about the future work you will be doing, you will do what you need to do to get there. Taking a year away from school can help you remember why you are studying what you are to begin with and it can allow you to come back with freshened passion.

As someone from a low socioeconomic background, I did not initially think a gap year was for someone like me. I assumed it was for kids who can afford to travel around the world and spend the year idle. This was not something that was feasible or desirable for me. After spending the summer working for the Americorps, I learned about amazing year-long programs that provide a living stipend while also giving the opportunity for meaningful work. Just doing this work for a summer helped reaffirm my career goals and reinvigorated me. Doing something similar for a year would provide complementary benefits but to a greater extent. There are many other year to two year-long programs that provide pay and experience that can mean a gap year of self-improvement and reflection through meaningful work that makes a positive impact on the community as a whole rather than of idleness and money-burning.

The right post-graduation decision really relies on you. You know yourself, you know what you need from yourself to reach your final destination. If taking a year off to explore aspects of your life outside of school would make you do better in further education, go for it. If taking a year off means you will be a happier, more self-actualized person, do it.

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