After twelve years of schooling, when it is time to apply for university/college, there are many students who are unsure of their interests and aptitude. Some are simply overwhelmed by the rigor of high school and want to take a break. For such students ‘GAP year’ seems very exciting. This concept is relatively new in India, but prevalent in the USA, Europe and Australia since many years.
However exciting and fun it may seem, it is essential to have certain set of expectations from your gap year so that it can be utilized in a constructive way.
Get clarity on your goals: A whole year without any commitments of school and assignments will give you lot of time to explore different fields. Learn more on areas of interest and see if it appeals to you as a career.
Gain skills : You can learn something new or enhance your own interest. Gap year is a chance to learn all that has fascinated you. See if you are cut out for that. At times skills learnt as a hobby can become a full time profession too. So be open and try out things.
Gain work experience: This can be really difficult for students especially in India since businesses/institutes are not open to hiring/giving internships or apprenticeship to students. So you can look at options abroad but then it will come at a cost.
While all of the above sounds very good, it is also important to note negative consequences of an unplanned Gap year.
Unproductive: If the year is not planned and structured well, lot of time can be sapped away by friends, social media and other outlets.
Affect college admissions: What could have been a year spent preparing for college of your choice, a break year without any plan would not get you anywhere close to it.
Academic aversion: After spending a year away from studies, you might find life in your gap year very relaxing and might want to do away with academics all together.
So I advise you to think of all the pros and cons of taking a Gap year, planning it well and utilizing it to your advantage. Do not hesitate to take help from counselors or experts to structure it well in sync with your long term goals.