Gap years were once seen as a simple distraction from the rest of one’s life, something to get out of your system before resuming educational and professional pursuits. Fortunately, more and more adults, careers advisors and fancy science folk are getting on board with what we’ve always known–that taking a year off from studying is actually beneficial. It makes sense then, for careers advisors to talk to their student’s about them.
Despite what their names might suggest, these days gap years aren’t always about taking a break and pausing your development. Students are more frequently taking this time away from schooling to enter the work place or volunteer towards valuable community projects. Perhaps a more suitable phrase for such an endeavour would be a ‘bridge year’–and that’s exactly what Princeton University calls their non-tuition program that involves exactly the kind of activities people are doing on their gap years.
It’s not a total time waste when young people decide to spend the bulk of their gap year travelling, either–they’re getting a crash-course in valuable life skills such as budgeting, planning, and adaptability. Simply put, there’s something special about tracking down the only hostel with beds available in the middle of the night and managing to haggle the price down in a medley of broken Spanish and hand-gestures, and you sure as hell aren’t gonna learn that in a classroom.
When applying for graduate positions, it is becoming increasingly assumed that applicants will have a degree with a few local internships sprinkled throughout. In this landscape, it can be difficult to stand out. A legitimate way to overcome this for some is to take a gap year, as employers are starting to value travel as an employable experience. It makes sense, too–meandering across the world usually imprints on an individual a refined global view, gives them improved language skills, and the confidence to take on new opportunities with success. Moreover, gaps years and travel are increasingly being associated with work experience and volunteer programs, allowing young people to gain valuable knowledge in their field to set them apart.
With the rigorous obstacle course that is formal education, it can be extremely easy to burn out before you even start university. It’s a good thing then that gap years can be totally valuable tools in maintaining and rediscovering your desire for learning. In fact, elite institutions such as Harvard are actively encouraging students to take gap years as a way to reset themselves on their educational path. We’ve even published before about how students returning from gap years can perform better than those that went straight into uni, and we’ve all seen mates take their time away to re-assess what they want out of an education and come back with a more mature approach to their studies. Gap years spent working can also help put students in a much better financial position to focus on education.
We’ve always suspected it, but now science is on our side too. A recent study has shown spending money on experiences is more valuable and has longer-lasting effects than spending money on material things, and it’s easy to argue that travel is the most experience-heavy thing you can put money towards. In a world where mental health issues are becoming more prioritised, especially amongst students, it would be foolish to ignore these facts. Instead of working hard to try and buy things that make us happy, why don’t we skip a few steps and wander our way straight to happiness instead?nullnull