A 2018 study by the American Psychological Association found that 70% of high school students reported feeling burned out at least sometimes, and 20% reported feeling burned out often. A 2019 study by the University of Cambridge found that 30% of European teenagers reported feeling burned out at least sometimes. All indicators point to these rates having gone up in recent years as college admissions get more competitive and high school students work harder to distinguish themselves.
A direct consequence of the increasing rates of burnout among young adults is the increasing number of them choosing to take a gap year before embarking on the next stage of their career. Recent studies show that the number of students taking a gap year has increased by more than 50% in recent years. A gap year is a period of time, where recent graduates take a break from their formal education or career path to engage in alternative growth, such as personal growth, self-discovery and skill development. 80% of my classmates ended up taking a gap year after graduating from my Munich high school, including me. I was one of them and have been an advocate of taking a gap year ever since. During this past year, I interned at ideamix, worked in a chemistry lab, volunteered in Argentina and traveled to different places around the world. Being able to experience so many different things in just one year has not only shaped my view of the world, but also helped me learn many new skills that will be really useful in my future. I learned how to adapt to new environments, how to communicate effectively across language barriers, how to improve my problem-solving skills, and I gained a lot of insight into different topics through different internships. My gap year reassured me that what I plan to study in college is the right thing for me. Especially seeing children in Argentina who simply do not have the opportunity to go to university really opened my eyes to the privileges I have and I am even more keen to give my all going into university.
The Gap Year Boom
Why are gap years becoming increasingly popular? First, it gives students the opportunity to take a break from their academic path and refocus to find out what they really want in their future studies or life in general. In addition, college admissions and the pressure to choose a career path are becoming more and more competitive, and a gap year allows high school graduates to gain clarity and perspective, or even apply more than once to their target schools. Third, with a job market that seems to require earlier and earlier specialization of college students, a gap year becomes an opportunity to explore at least a couple of areas of professional interest to validate them. Last, the opportunity to work in industries of interest, helps evolve a student’s thinking on their course and activity choices during college.
For me, Covid created an additional reason for a gap year as it had made me feel stuck and lacking in opportunities to explore my interests for a couple of years. Increasingly, attitudes towards gap years are changing as the idea goes mainstream.
The most common misconception on gap years was that it was a waste of time. As with most everything in life, when properly structured and executed, a gap year is an incredibly enriching and transformative experience.
Another concern is often financial implications of a gap year which are best addressed by working part of the time or apply to scholarships or grants. Last, parents often think a gap year will somehow derail their student from their college progression. This is easily addressed by ensuring a clear gap year structure and plan.
Growth and Discover Yourself
How and why does a gap year unleash personal growth and self-discovery? It’s a free option on self-discovery and professional exploration. The very act of deciding to take a gap year requires you to step out of your comfort zone By immersing yourself in new environments, cultures, and challenges, you develop resilience, adaptability, and problem-solving skills. Throughout the year, you’re constantly challenged to reflect, and that enabled me to develop a deeper understanding of my values, strengths, and passions. You also have the freedom to explore passions and interests without the constraints of academic or professional obligations. It’s a time for you to develop skills or simply study subjects that genuinely spark your curiosity.
For me, in particular, it made a huge difference to be able to study without having to think about exams or grades after. I studied based on my genuine interests and desire to learn. I already know my experiences are going to help me at university – my gap year has already evolved my perspective on what I will study. My experience of different cultures, languages, and people improved my intercultural understanding.
Get a leg up to get ahead
Not only did the gap year help me grow and develop, it’s also enhanced my future career prospects by providing a distinct, competitive edge in the job market by developing my leadership, communication, problem solving, and team skills.
To an employer, the experience gained during a gap year demonstrates initiative, independence, and a willingness to take on challenges.
Even in our current polarized national and international global society, understanding different perspectives and cultures is essential. A gap year provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in other cultures. That’s obviously valuable in fields such as international relations or diplomacy, but let’s face it, greater cultural understanding is essential in any job these days.
A Perfect Opportunity
A well-planned gap year has immense transformative potential. It allows you to step away from the conventional path, explore your passions, gain valuable skills, and develop a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you. It’s a year of personal growth, self-discovery and improved career prospects.
Taking a gap year is a personal decision that should be carefully considered and planned to maximize its potential benefits. It ‘s an opportunity to invest in yourself and gain valuable life experiences that will shape your future. For me, it has especially changed the mindset I have about education in general – I am now going to university much more sure of who I am and what I want to do . So embrace the gap year adventure and take the opportunity to grow, explore, and discover the world and yourself along the way.