Perhaps you’re currently trying to work out exactly what your next steps should be in life. It could be that you’ve just finished high school—or you’re about to—or maybe you have reached a point where you realize your current career just isn’t making you happy, or you’re not as far ahead as you had hoped to be. There are plenty of options, but it’s hard to determine exactly what is best. This is why many people choose to take a gap year.
A gap year is a year out of education or a career, and there are many reasons why you might choose to take one. It’s going to be easier for some than for others; some people will already have the responsibilities of adult life, such as a home to keep up payments on or a family to take care of. However, if you are able to carve out some time for yourself, even if it’s just a few months or weeks if you can’t commit to a full year, it can be a life-changing, life-enhancing experience that will make all the difference in how you live what comes after. Read on to find out why a gap year could be the best move you ever make.
You Can Make Important Life Decisions
Life is busy. There are always jobs to do, and everything will seem to be a high priority. However, this is not actually the case. Not every job is important, and not everything needs to be done right here and now. Yet, you will often feel as though more and more tasks are being added to your to-do list, and that is stressful. It can cause all kinds of mental health issues, and it can make moving forward in life very difficult, if not impossible.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to clear all of this away and focus only on what actually matters? If that sounds impossible, a gap year—or a gap month, if that’s all you can manage—could be ideal. When you take time out and you’re not studying or working, you can truly find out what is important to you and make sure that’s what you’re focused on. It might be the next step in your career, a new career, starting your own business, going back to college, starting college, or staying at home to raise a family, among many other possibilities. Until you are able to get away from all the trials and tribulations of life, you won’t know what is important because everything is (or at least that’s how it appears).
Take a gap year, focus yourself, and then move forward, and it will be so much easier. Those important life decisions that you had no idea what to do with or even how to get started will become much easier when you have a clearer mind.
You’ll Perform Better Academically
Taking a gap year so that when you go back to your studies you will be better at them is perhaps not the most obvious reason to take this time out, but it is certainly one you need to consider. You might not think it, but taking a year out, no matter what you do in that year, can make you better at learning, studying, retaining information, and it can make you more interested in your studies in the first place.
There are a number of different reasons put forward for why this is, but the top one seems to be that you aren’t overwhelmed with information. Much like the reason above, when there is too much going on, it’s hard to truly drill down and get to the bottom of what it is you actually want and what’s important. If you take a year away from your studies, by the time you get back to them, you’ll be feeling calmer, ready to start learning again. If you go straight from high school to college, or go straight from a BA to an MA, or MA to a PhD, or similar, or even if you go straight from a career back to college, your brain never gets a chance to gather itself and regroup. When this happens, the information you retain may not stay with you, and it could be that, despite putting in a lot of effort and hard work, you actually don’t do as well academically as you would have if you had taken a much-needed break. Sometimes your brain just needs a rest.
Although you might assume that taking a gap year would put you behind in your studies or mean that you’ve “forgotten” how to learn, this is not the case. Firstly, it’s only a year, so you won’t be too far behind at all; and secondly, by giving your brain the chance to get the rest that it needs, it will be more able to retain information. In other words, a gap year is good for your grades.
You Could Learn Another Language
Of course, not everyone chooses to travel when they take a gap year. For some, it’s about exploring themselves and understand exactly what it is they want from life; while for others, it’s more about working to get themselves more financially secure before going back into education. However, if you do intend to travel, and assuming you travel to non-English-speaking countries, it would be a shame not to learn the language while you are there, or at least a reasonable amount of it.
Learning a language is one of the greatest skills you can have. It’s wonderful for keeping the brain active, it’s interesting and fun, it can help you when you are traveling, and it can certainly help in terms of your future career. Take a look at some job postings and see which ones require the candidate to speak a second language. You’ll more than likely notice that those are the jobs that pay better, have more opportunities for growth, and that are more rewarding in general.
Even if you don’t use your second language for anything other than your own satisfaction at being able to learn it, that’s still a good reason. It can enhance your skills in learning and you can prove to yourself that you are capable of much more than you might have thought.
Increased Job Satisfaction
Studies have shown that those who have taken a gap year go on to report that they have high levels of job satisfaction once they get into the workplace. This is much more important than you might think; being happy at work means that you can be positive in many other areas of your life, and it means that you are more likely to succeed and achieve your goals.
When you take a gap year, you’ll have time to decide what it is you truly want to do. This could mean changing your plans, perhaps even going from one career to another by taking the online accelerated BSN program from Elmhurst University, for example—but that’s fine. In fact, that’s good. There is no point in being in a career that you don’t enjoy just because it’s what you initially said you wanted to do, or what you thought was the right decision at the time. There are so many opportunities to help you change so that you can bring more meaning to your life and get that all-important job satisfaction, but when you’re in the middle of everything, either studying or working, it’s hard to see through and understand that this is not what you have to do for the rest of your life.
The gap year, or gap month, or any other period of time you take will give you the distance you need to truly figure out whether you’re currently happy or you’re just going through the motions. If what you are doing is not giving you any joy or you’re bored or it’s making you actively miserable, now is the time to make the changes you need to make. Switching careers or changing to a different college course is nothing to be ashamed of—your life is yours, and you need to be happy. Remember, whatever you choose to do has to be what you want to do, not what someone else tells you to do or what you think would make people proud of you. So by taking a year out, you can start to understand what you want out of life, and make sure you put plans in place to reach your goals.
To Explore Your Passions
Following on from the point above, your gap year is the ideal chance to explore your passions and to see what it is you love to do. Perhaps there is an activity you’ve always wanted to try, such as sky diving or taking up pottery. Or maybe you already have a hobby you love, and you want to see if you can turn it into a career. The gap year is your chance to find out.
Equally, it’s your chance to try all kinds of new experiences that you might not ever have considered before, but that could help point you in the right direction for the rest of your life. This is why it’s so important to look for—and take advantage of—as many opportunities as possible in your gap year. One way to do this is to get a part-time job so that you have some income and then use the rest of your time to explore your passions and make new discoveries. Alternatively, you can start saving for your gap year as far as in advance as possible so that when the time comes, you can truly make the most of it. There won’t be many times in your life when you can truly be as free as you would be on a gap year.
To Become More Financially Aware
Learning how to be financially aware is not easy, particularly if you have never had to live away from home before or had to take care of any bills. However, when you take a gap year, you can quickly learn what it means to be financially aware, and this will help you in many areas of your life, ensuring that—as long as you stick to the lessons you have learned—you don’t get into unmanageable debt and you understand how to pay bills, taxes, and other responsibilities. Taking a gap year will teach you these skills as you will need to budget carefully. The more you want to do through your gap year, the more you’ll need to budget for it.
In other words, you’ll actually have no choice but to be much more aware of your finances. Without a gap year, this learning may not take place, and you might find that you have issues regarding money. Even if you don’t, learning firsthand in this way can be highly beneficial as the lessons you learn are much more like to stay with you for longer, and probably for the rest of your life.
To Cultivate Soft Skills
Soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, punctuality, curiosity, research, and so much more are qualities that any employer would be looking for. It’s not just a matter of having the appropriate qualifications and experience (although these are, of course, important); you also need to have additional skills if you want to stand out from the crowd and be noticed by your potential employer. These soft skills that you will pick up without even realizing it for the most part will look wonderful on your résumé and will certainly help you when it comes to getting a job after your gap year or your studies are complete.
So rather than having a gap on your résumé when you went traveling or having fun, you can make sure that this gap is filled with useful skills that any employer would be happy to see. In other words, as long as you take care to understand just what you have learned, rather than being detrimental to any future career, a gap year can make you much more employable.