GRADUATION 2021: Is now the time for a gap year?

Published 5:50 pm Monday, May 24, 2021

Uncertainty has reigned over many students for the last year-plus.

As the COVID-19 virus spread across the globe, schools were forced to transition to virtual learning. Some did so full-time, while others offered hybrid learning plans that combined virtual learning with in person instruction.

Confronting that transition proved exhausting for parents and educators, but students also could not be blamed if they felt a little academic fatigue as they navigated learning during the pandemic.

Some students may have no choice but to carry on with their studies until schools return to more traditional, full-time classroom settings.

But students about to graduate from high school or college may be wondering if now isn’t an ideal time to take a gap year.

Others may be intrigued by gap years but not be entirely certain what they are.

The following information can help students determine if a gap year is right for them.

What is a gap year?

The Gap Year Association defines a gap year as “a semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.”
The GYA notes that no two gap years are alike, though the spirit of a gap year is to afford students a chance to expand their comfort zones and have a cross-cultural experience while ensuring they have the time to reflect on those experiences.

Do gap years derail students’ academic careers?

Parents might be concerned that a gap year will derail students’ academic careers by decreasing the likelihood that they will ultimately return to school.

However, the GYA reports that 90 percent of students who take gap years enroll in a four-year institution within one year of completing their gap year. That can quell some of the concerns parents and even students may have about taking a year off from school at a time when many of their peers may be moving forward with their educations.

What do students do during their gap years?

Though the GYA notes that some space and time to explore the unknown is vital to a gap year, students who think a gap year may be right for them should know that such years are most effective when students engage themselves in activities designed to expand their horizons.

Many students spend their gap years volunteering with a service organization while others may accept an internship to see what life in a given profession may be like.

Students have had to confront many challenges during the pandemic. Recent grads experiencing fatigue as a result of those challenges may find that now is the ideal time to take a gap year.