Why We Should Normalize Taking a Gap Year

For many Filipinos, taking a whole year off after high school is unthinkable. They assume that it is a wasted year if they don’t go directly into college, which is understandable with our current educational norm.

Another issue about taking a year off is the feeling of being left out, especially the idea that your friends will graduate ahead of you. 

However, there are times when we need to rest and discover what we really want to pursue in college. This is where a gap year comes handy. 

What is a Gap Year?

According to gapyearassociation.org, a gap year is a semester or year of experiential learning. Typically, after high school and before career or post-secondary education, to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.

I first heard this term from an interview of a millennial farmer who took a year off before entering college. During his gap year, he interned on a farm from a nearby province to learn more about the industry’s skills and opportunities.

I found it very interesting and intriguing since a gap year may seem absurd for many of us. It also meant that we are “stopping” in our education, which can embarrass others.

However, I realized that it is also important to rest before going into college. Many high school graduates enroll in courses they don’t like because they think they will waste their time if they don’t. Only to shift to another course the following semester because the prior degree he/she took is “not for them.”

If we can integrate gap years, students can take a sabbatical from formal education and learn from informal modes. Through this gap year, they can learn practical skills and knowledge and even identify what they want to do.

After all, as long as we are learning, we are not wasting time. 

Benefits of Taking a Gap Year

  1. Students can take a rest from stress from senior high school.
  2. Students can decide what major they genuinely want to pursue without being pressured.
  3. Students can learn practical life skills by working and engaging through volunteerism, internships, or personal projects.

The Reality of Privilege of Taking a Gap Year

I know that taking a gap year will not be an option for everyone because of the possible financial burden of not enrolling soon in a free-tuition fee college. 

But the current educational structure is changing. We are slowly approaching a period where degrees will matter less, and experience and know-how will emerge more significant.

For parents, you should consider giving your children the gap year option, especially if they are still unsure of what to take in college. As long as they are productive, they are not wasting time.

You may enroll them in vocational schools or allow them to learn from other trades that interest them.

For students, a gap year is not a waste of time as long as you learn something. You need to understand that there are lessons that cannot be taught in school, and there are skills best learned through hands-on experience.

One year off school can be life-changing if you use it right. You may discover your passion or spark other interests.

A Gap Year in Time of a Pandemic

With many people calling out educational institutions for an academic freeze, a gap year can be a viable option for students who have difficulty adjusting to the new normal.

It may be a year off from college to help students discover some things they want to do.

My Experience with Career Gap

I did not take a gap year, maybe if I was aware of it before entering college, I might have used it to learn more about agriculture. I wouldn’t have enrolled in nursing before shifting course, which, in essence, is almost the same as a gap year.

After college, I had two separate six-month periods when I was unemployed. Though it can be frustrating looking for a job, those career breaks were essential in building my other life skills like writing and personal finance.

Final Thought

We need a more holistic approach to education – something beyond what schools can offer. We need to normalize and remove the stigma from students taking a year off from school. 

It may not be the default education route. However, it still offers valuable insights into real-life, which will be useful in the future.

It would be better for students to have the time to decide what they want to be and not be pressured to enter college. Being clueless about what degree to take and only to shift the following semester is more wasteful, in my opinion.

Let us give younger people the freedom to choose their career path. It would be better to feel lost going into college than enter a quarter-life crisis.

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