Maybe you've received an acceptance letter and are debating whether or not to defer your enrolment, or maybe you're just thinking a few years ahead. In either case, you're not alone; the gap year question is one that crosses almost everyone's mind at some point in his or her student career.

In many parts of Europe, it is very common to take a gap year, and it is seen almost as a "rite of passage." And while in North America, the gap year has been slower to catch on, more and more people are beginning to take some time out before college to contemplate their futures and explore the real world. These people may spend their gap year doing such things as working, traveling, volunteering, learning a language, or taking internships. Here we're going to discuss the advantages of taking a gap year.

PRO: A gap year is an opportunity for some badly needed R&R

If you're like most people, high school isn't a walk in the park. The ongoing slew of exams can leave you drained and exhausted, and in dire need of some rejuvenation. Some people like to take a year out after school to engage in activities that are less mentally taxing, such as traveling or taking on a part-time job. After this, they can go back to their studies feeling refreshed and energized.

PRO: A gap year allows you to explore and/or reconsider your options for the future

Being shuttled from one assignment or exam to the next leaves you with little time to seriously think about your eventual career. Sorting out your 'future' may sometimes seem like one more task to check off your to-do list. But it's not. Your college and career decisions deserve serious time and thought, and should not be made quickly or half-heartedly. Therefore, some students choose to take a gap year in order to deepen and extend their decision-making process. Getting out into the real world can give you a sense of what you'll be up against when you finish your studies, and can help transform the abstract notion of a 'future' into something much more concrete.  

Leaning towards working during a gap year?

Taking on a job can give you a sense of what working really entails, and can reinforce the importance of choosing a career that you find fulfilling and enjoyable. Meanwhile, an internship can give you experience in a field that you are thinking of entering; if the experience is positive, it can help validate this as a suitable career path for you. However, if the experience is negative, you may decide to reconsider the program that you plan to join in college.

Traveling excite you?

Traveling and volunteering may give you slightly different kinds of experiences than can a job or internship. While exploring different parts of the world and meeting new people may not give you direct exposure to any potential careers, these activities can alter the way you look at the world. They can enlarge your horizons and may even cause you to question some of your previously held prejudices and priorities. Therefore, when you return from your gap year, you may feel better equipped to make meaningful decisions about your future.

Whichever decision you make, don’t rush it. Take some time, talk it over with friends and family, make your own pros and cons list, and ultimately, decide what’s right for you. College will always be there when you’re ready.

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