They’re growing more popular: gap years.
Traditionally, college-bound students would graduate from high school in the spring, spend the summer in preparation, and then head off to university in the fall.
Recently, more students are taking a “gap year”. That is, they are pausing between high school and college to work, save money, explore different options, travel, go overseas, or whatever else happens to come up.
While a gap year is a great opportunity to get clarity, gain valuable experience, and build space for making wise decisions, it can also inadvertently lead to wasted time. Taking a gap year is an intentional choice and your student should be emerging from their gap year with at least four things.
We all know about college costs and the ridiculous amounts of debt that people take on to get their degrees.
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If your student is taking a gap year to work and save money for college, good for them.
Money certainly isn’t everything in the world but, especially if your student has their sights on college in the future, it will help them to have a head start on saving for that cost.
Furthermore, the work experience that they’ll gain while earning that money will be invaluable. Working through a gap year will not only help your student build skills and gain experience but it will help them build connections with other professionals, which in turn will open up new opportunities in the future.
Speaking of experience, gap years are great times to experience “all the things.”
That’s not limited to work experience though. Students who take a gap year to travel overseas or do a personal project will also get invaluable experience.
We can accomplish a lot in a year if we stay focused. Maybe your student wants to write a book or start a business. They have a great opportunity to start those projects during their gap year.
In fact, some students will experience or accomplish things during their gap year that may change their college trajectory.
This leads us to the next thing that every student should get from their gap year…
Purpose can be a hard thing to figure out. And I’m not entirely convinced we ever get it figured out for good. It’s constantly evolving through life’s many seasons.
So many students are attending college today because it was their default answer to the burning question: “What now?”
There is no shame in holding back from the mainstream default for a year to decide: “Do I really want/need to do this?”
When it comes to important questions about your student’s future after high school, don’t settle for assumed answers.
Whether it’s a question of which major to pursue or even to pursue a degree at all, a gap year gives your student some time and space to seek wisdom and make the right decision.
You knew this one was coming, right?
Students doing a gap year are in a unique position. Most of their friends are probably moving into college life, whether physically or not. They may feel “behind”. And certainly may feel isolated.
This is a critical time to practice building community. And that can look like a number of things.
It may look like intentionally pursuing mentors who can offer guidance. Maybe it will look like finding someone younger to mentor and encourage. It might look like connecting with peers over shared experiences.
The practice of building intentional relationships will blossom and lead to benefits that last beyond the gap year.
Want to combine gap year flexibility with a head start on college credit? Apply for Ascend, the program that helps students get real-world experience, community, and college credit, all at once.
Jace Bower is the Marketing Coordinator for Unbound. An Unbound alumnus, he has experienced firsthand the powerful advantages of doing college differently and participating in an intentional community. Jace graduated with his bachelor’s degree in History in 2016 and has worked in restaurant management and marketing since then. He also served on the Unbound Student Cabinet in 2019.
The author of two books and a semi-regular blogger, Jace can often be found doing something with words. When he’s not, chances are he’s reading about theology, listening to music, or playing pool or tennis with his wife Shannon in their Virginia home.