As college acceptance letters come pouring in and your classmates get more and more excited about this next chapter, you’re feeling a little more anxious—and not the good kind of anxious. You’re starting to feel like maybe college isn’t the right thing for you right now and maybe you need a little more time before you’re ready for that change. Maybe a gap year is what you need instead?
There are all kinds of paths for you to follow after graduating from high school: Some people go straight into college, some people start working right away and some people just need a little more time before beginning the collegiette journey. Here’s a list of the top reasons why you should feel good about your decision to take a year off!
1. You’re taking time to find yourself
Although we have a lot of responsibilities by the time we graduate high school, we’re still pretty young. We’ve only known ourselves as a part of some kind of unit: our graduating class, our sports teams, our clubs, our families. Some people might find it hard to figure out who they are on their own.
Taking a year off, no matter what you do during it, is an amazing way to figure out who you are and what you want out of life. By distancing yourself from being a part of yet another unit, you can start to understand who you are as an individual.
That’s what Morgan Halstead, a junior at the University of California San Diego, thought about when she decided to take a year off. “I just worked during my year off, but even just working on my own let me figure out what I wanted for myself instead of what my school or my friends or my family wanted for me,” she says.
Know that you can choose to take some time off even after you’ve started college, too.
“I was under the impression that I knew what I wanted to do with my future, and that I knew myself enough to make the right decisions—but I was wrong,” says Lucy Hopkins, a freshman at the University of Windsor.
After taking a few classes she hated and really struggling her first semester of college, Lucy decided to take some time off. “The time that I had off was hard for many reasons,” she says. “When I finally came back to university in September, I was so much more ready. I had done a lot of growing up and I had learned a lot about what I really wanted.”
If you feel like you’re just not ready to start college, simply taking the time to know yourself and figure out what you want is a reason in itself to feel good about taking a gap year.
2. You’re making some money
ollege costs a boatload of money (thanks, student loans)? Making some extra cash during your gap year will make your time at school (and afterwards) less stressful so you can focus more on getting great grades and having the time of your life. During your gap year, you can get a job to save up some money for when you do head to college.
That’s what Rose Goldman, a junior at the University of New Hampshire, did during her gap year. “I knew I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, so I took a gap year,” she says. “I started this waitressing job at a pretty nice restaurant. At the time I thought that was kind of embarrassing... until I checked my bank account after a few months. Between my tips and my paychecks, I was making a ton of money.”
Once you realize how much a year’s worth of paychecks will help you pay for your schooling, you’ll be sure to be psyched about taking a gap year!
3. You’re doing volunteer work
If you’re taking a gap year to do some volunteer work, be excited about the fact that you’ll be bringing good into the world!
When she wasn’t busy cashing in big time at her waitressing job during her gap year, Rose did some volunteering. “It wasn’t some big volunteer job overseas or anything, just most days of the week at the [local animal shelter],” she says. “I liked it because it was just another thing I could do that was productive, and it actually helped me realize that maybe I’d want to do some stuff with nonprofits because I liked the work I was doing so much.”
Whether you’re volunteering with an after-school program for kids or traveling around the country building houses with Habitat for Humanity, doing volunteer work during your gap year is worthwhile. Between the good karmic vibes you’ll get and the potential work experience, volunteering is definitely something you can feel good about.
4. You’re dealing with your family life
There are all sorts of reasons for taking a gap year before college, and for some collegiettes, those reasons can be family-related. No matter the issue, remember that your family is important, so if you feel like you need to be there for them during this time instead of going to college, you should definitely feel good about taking your gap year.
“I took my gap year because of family issues,” says Jayci*, a senior collegiette. “I knew that if I went to college with everything going on at home, I wouldn’t be able to survive. My grades definitely would suffer, and I feel like I would’ve been thinking constantly about the next time I could go home instead of enjoying life at school.”
If you’re constantly worrying about what’s going on with your family or even traveling back and forth from school to home to help them out, you won’t be able to give your all to your college experience. Not only will you not have time to commit to extracurriculars or the social scene, but you also might not be able to give your all in your classes, which can negatively impact your GPA and make you feel disappointed in yourself – which you shouldn’t!
“Things obviously don’t completely resolve themselves within a school year, but by the time the next school year did roll around, I felt more stable and more ready to be in college,” Jayci says. “I still worried about my family and still maybe visited home more often than other students, but when I was at school, it was my main focus.”
If you’re taking a gap year to deal with family issues, take solace in knowing that you’ll be able to fully participate in the college experience once you get there.