Typically, the term “gap year” is a period of “break” time between high school and college. But, now the phrase is not limited to just this definition. A gap year can be a year in between college graduation and graduate school, or even a year in between college graduation and finding a full-time position. Many 2015 grads , like myself, are facing this standstill: to gap year, or not to gap year. There are definitely many positives and negatives to the gap year. But, no matter which way you decide to go, it is important to remember there is no “right or wrong” path to follow. You must do what is best for you.
1. Time to think. You just spent four years of your time, effort, and resources to earn a degree. Now, the big question, what are you going to do with it? What is next? Despite what everyone tells you, it is okay not to know! Taking a year off in between graduate school or full-time work can give you a little more time to decide what it is you love. It may be a good time to pursue some part-time work, or even some internships to get more experience in what may be your career field.
2. The chance to see if you’re on the right path. Unsure if your 4-year-degree is actually right for you? Get into the field and try it before you continue with it. You never really know if you’re going to like a job until you try it. There may be some things you love, and some things you dislike about it. There are tons of temporary positions available and month-long internships. Take advantage of those opportunities.
3. Time off for personal experiences. Along with getting some work experience, this may be a good time to travel, volunteer, try new things, and do whatever it is your heart desires! This is the perfect time to get on your adventure grind before settling down and really starting your life. Many people say their experiences during their gap year paved way for a better future. You may never get this time again to get the same chance.
1. You may fall behind. Whatever path you choose to take during this gap year, just make sure you know what is going to come next. This isn’t a time to just mess around and not care at all for 12 months. It’s a time to take it slow and figured it out rather than jumping into it a plan that may fail. That being said, don’t let the gap year turn into the 3-year gap year. Limit yourself and set some sort of time schedule. If you are planning to work until grad school, know when application deadlines are and make sure you meet them. If you are traveling, figure out where to and set a structured time frame for your return and goals for when you come back.
2. Financial instability. If you decide not to work right after college, you might be short on some cash. The break from responsibilities and obligations is nice, especially if you live at home and get free food and a place to stay. But, also keep in mind that you will immediately go from a broke college student to a broke post-grad. Neither are fun. Your friends will be venturing out into the real world, while you are stuck at home without spending money and a means to get around.
3. It’s harder to get back into the swing of school. Once you take a year off of educational obligations and get a taste of a nice break, it can be much more difficult to get back into it. Think of it like running. You run pretty fast for about a mile before you get tired and need to slow down, but you have two more to go. You decide to walk anyways. You know you don’t want to walk the rest of the way, so after about 5 minutes you try and run again. But, you find yourself more tired and your legs are cramping up because you lost your momentum. It’s the same thing with taking a break from student life. Make sure you brace yourself for all transitions, and know it’s going to be hard at first.
No matter what you decide to do, weighing out all sides of the spectrum is important. And most importantly, do whatever feels right for you. Don’t let anyone’s opinions get in the way of pursuing a life that you want to live. That will get you the farthest on your post-grad journey.
Marissa is a psychology major at Towson University.