The ‘Essential’ Gap Year?

Gap years are ever increasing in popularity amongst students. But can you necessitate taking one?

A gap year is the year between high school and post-secondary or between post-secondary and graduate school during which individuals typically choose to work or travel. In our parent’s generation, gap years were a rarity and though they are growing in popularity, the statistics in Canada are nowhere close to the popularity in Europe, where gap years are considered a rite of passage.

When I first considered a gap year at the end high school, I quickly shut it down in fear that I wouldn’t be able to defer my university acceptances and if I reapplied, I would not get into the same schools again; a concern shared by my peers as well. Currently in my third year of undergraduate studies, I’m starting to re-consider taking a gap year but with the same renewed concerns. Will I have done enough during my gap year to justify it to graduate schools?

A year away from school can be great for a variety of reasons. It can be used to earn and save money to pay for future schooling; because we all know that education is expensive. It is also a chance to build life skills and mature through the knowledge we have gained through our academia and extra-curriculars. Also, it provides an opportunity to discover what you are truly interested in pursuing rather than having to switch majors partway through your undergraduate degree. Finally, what I believe to be the most important reason to a gap year, it opens up the doors to strengthening one’s mental health after the strenuous events of school. It enables one to participate in self-care, something that lacks amongst many students during their school years.

The question when considering a gap year between post-secondary and graduate school, is “what are you going to do during that time”? Some aspects to consider are whether you are going to be able to add enough to your resume and your profile to warrant having taken a year off before applying to graduate school. For example, if it is an application question or they ask during an interview, are you able to discuss in depth your experiences and the skills you have gained in the last year? The pressure to do something and define your gap year experience to universities may be just as strenuous as the thought of applying to graduate school straight out of your undergraduate degree.

So, will you be taking a gap year?