Gap Year - Yes, May Be Or Simply A No!

By Adarsh Khandelwal, Co-Founder, Collegify   |   Monday, 09 July 2018, 12:00 Hrs
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The term ‘Gap Year’ in international academic parlance specifically refers to a voluntary break students take between high school and college. Students typically use this period to travel and engage in extended periods of community service as they re-calibrate their energies and goals before the next academic phase. In fact the Internet is replete with websites which assist and plan ‘gap year’ activities. It’s true that a gap year isn’t for everyone, but for a student who has reached the end of high school and needs some time and distance away from conventional learning within educational institutions, a gap year might be beneficial.



A fairly common practice abroad, it is yet to gain popularity among students in India. The idea of a ‘free’ year without structure and plan in the midst one’s academic journey is unsettling at the least! But contrary to popular opinion, a Gap Year is not as ‘free’ as it sounds.



A student who takes a gap year needs to be very clear on their interests and plan the gap year with precision and care. After all, it’s not time off, it’s time on, time to learn and engage in the world with a fresh perspective; time to pursue the opportunities that the rigid structure of school doesn’t allow for. So a student who wants to explore his entrepreneurial skills, or do research in a field station, or spend some time traveling and doing community service, or dance with a professional company, or whatever direction their passions point them to fulfils the purpose of taking a ‘gap year’.



If you do decide you want to take a gap year, having a plan can help you structure your time and create your own schedule. After all, that’s why you want to take one in the first place, right, for the autonomy, the chance to choose how your own education works beyond the classroom? So if this is something you are considering, having a 12 month plan, complete with goals, personal or product oriented, can really make sure you’re making the best of your time.



Many students enter college with either a vague notion of what they want, or a set plan that they’ve never really questioned. But taking the time to cultivate multiple interests and having the initiative and maturity to propel one’s learning experiences is vitally important to maximizing the college experience and a ‘gap year’ fulfils this purpose.



Needless to say, like almost any decision, there are pros and cons which need to be weighed in entirety before taking a call.  On the plus side, it gives you an opportunity to live life experientially; on the down side, it may mean you find it harder to find the motivation to resume academics after a year. Your peers will have a head start while colleges will scrutinize your application in greater detail to determine the fact that you have utilized your time effectively.   Colleges in the west are empathetic to gap year students provided they demonstrate learning, motivation, focus and determination. 



A student we know studied science in high school, his interests actually veered towards political science and the workings of government. Post high school, he spent a year working with a reputed political group to try and gain a ‘hands on’ experience in an area which was previously inaccessible to him due to the demands of his high school curriculum. Travelling through rural India gave him the opportunity to explore and affirm the relevance of the political process and governance. He went on to pursue an education at Brown University, one of the top-ranked universities in the United States.



For another student, taking a gap year meant immersing himself in photography, travel and social service. In a span of twelve months, he set up a non-profit organization, ‘A Fantastic Initiative’, which was aimed at carrying out relief operations for earthquake victims in Nepal. He interned with an online art magazine startup and acted as a translator for a group of archaeologists who were conducting surveys and excavations in Kashmir, and so much more. He is now headed to University of Texas, Austin. There are many for whom the path from high school to college is a straight line, but there are also students who find themselves on an alternate path. With planning and consideration, a gap year could be the road to the future.



PROS:



Well deserved break after 10-12 years of study.



Time to work out what you want to do in your life or your next chapter



More money from income if you work during that time



Can go see the world (or some at least)



Life Experience



CONS:



It can be hard to motivate yourself during a gap year.



Might take longer to get into the career you want due to delaying studying



Hard to see your friends who are studying



Loss of direction



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