Until recently gap years have been somewhat uncommon among American high school graduates, despite being almost ubiquitous in other places like Europe and Australia. But in recent years, more US students have chosen to take a gap year before starting college. But there are still a few myths surrounding the gap year.
“It’s for people who are immature or lack direction.”
Not true at all. “A gap year is structured and intentional time,” says Andrea Wien, author of “Gap to Great: The Parent’s Guide to a Gap Year.” “They’re planning this out, setting goals and thinking about what types of activities they’re interested in when they’re not bound by obligations.” Though the value might not always be obvious on the surface, most students describe it as a time of tremendous personal growth.
“You’ll have to go through the entire admissions process when you get back, and schools will frown on your decision.”
Though every school has different policies, Harvard and Princeton are among universities that openly encourage admitted students to take a gap year. Plenty of other schools have policies to accommodate students who wish to take a gap year. You can apply with your classmates, and (with an acceptance letter in hand), defer admission until the following year. In most cases, you won’t need to reapply.
“Other people might judge you negatively.”
Maybe, maybe not. Hopefully the vast majority of people in your life will be supportive of your choice. But even if they’re not, what better way to prove them wrong then to overload their social media feeds with photos of your awesome gap year experience, followed by four years of overloading their social media feeds with photos of your awesome college experience?
“It’s for students that didn’t get in anywhere.”
Malia Obama would beg to differ. The Harvard admit recently announced she’d take a gap year before beginning college. According to the American Gap Association (AGA), most students who take a gap year have already been admitted to a school. Many students who choose gap years are high-achieving A/B students who want the chance to get a little real world experience before starting college.
“It’s only for the rich.”
Though money certainly opens up more opportunities, there are plenty of gap year programs that are low cost or no-cost. Some programs even allow you to earn money. There are plenty of scholarships and stipends available for students interested in taking a gap year. For some programs, your only cost is the price of the plane ticket.
“It will make you look lazy to employers and you’ll start your career a year late.”
AGA found that 88% of students who took a Gap Year said that they improved their career chances. Whether or not your gap year is related to your post-college career, a year off can help you better understand what kind of work you excel at and what skills you need to thrive in a professional environment.
“You’ll never go back to college.”
Most students who take gap years return to school. In fact, some studies have found that students who take gap years have higher GPAs, a lower dropout rate, and a higher satisfaction rating than their counterparts.
“You won’t learn anything.”
Okay, maybe most gap year programs don’t involve anything you learned in Calculus AP, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not learning anything. Most students find their gap year to be a tremendously educational experience. Gap years give you the opportunity to learn a new language, learn about other cultures, learn new skills, and learn about the world around you. And of course, you’ll learn a great deal about who you are and what you want to do.