For students fed up with school and unable to “switch
on” to the new challenge of college, the “Gap Year” has always been an
attractive alternative. It can also hold an attraction for students with
non-academic ambitions who don’t want to put off any longer the things
they want to do. It’s the year to do all the things school got in the way
of such as travel, service (both home and abroad) and earning money.
Students from CMIS have worked on NGO’s (Non-Government Organizations that
do humanitarian work), traveled on sailing ships and worked in the United
States to get money for college during their Gap Year.
Hartmann, CMIS College Counselor
At its best, the Gap Year can re-motivate you for study,
give you experience in your vocational interest and put money in your
pocket. You can go to college older, wiser and richer! Surely this is good?
As a career counselor, I have always strongly cautioned
students about taking a Gap Year. To get anywhere in life a degree is an
important starting point. Anything that delays or risks that has to be
treated with caution. Here are some points against a Gap Year.
1. You forget many of your skills and basic study habits.
Remember coming back to school after the summer break? It was only eight
weeks and it takes a while to get back into things. Imagine coming back
after 52 weeks to a whole higher level of challenge. Imagine two years out
of the academic system?
2. You can get sidetracked in a Gap Year. This may not
necessarily be bad but it needs to be thought about. One student who could
have been an engineer became a supermarket manager because he worked so well
there in his Gap Year that he was offered a permanent job on good money. He
took it! Other students have got sidetracked into numerous adventures that
really do not advance them and have never made it back to college. The
danger is that the Gap Year never ends!
3. It’s harder to research colleges, enroll, get
teacher and counselor’s references when you are out of the school system.
Once you break away from your school, teachers may leave, records are not as
fresh, references may lack spark, scholarships may be not available, and you
might have earned too much for financial aid. I recommend all Grade 12’s
to apply for colleges that allow you to defer for one year if they are going
to take a Gap Year. That way you are already in college during your Gap Year
and have completed all the paperwork at school with help available. Imagine
trying to do that from a tropical island in the South Pacific! Having only a
one-year deferral forces you back into the system after one year.
4. Finally, consider delaying the Gap Year till you have
your Bachelor’s degree. You might just get more out of it and be better
able to function at 21 years of age with a degree under your belt. You can
still achieve all the benefits of a Gap Year without any of the risks.
Consider a Gap Year very carefully. Just because you
don’t know what you want in life doesn’t mean you should not go to
college. Decisions about majors can be delayed up to two years in most
colleges. If you have always been a good student with a great record and
know you are not ready for college, chances are you will handle the Gap Year
and get back to college the better for it. If you are not a steady student,
then guard yourself against the pitfalls of the Gap Year. Get enrolled and
defer if you can but keep your skills fresh by taking a few classes and
reading constantly. Delay college only if there is a realistic, provable
I caution all students to be very careful before taking a
Gap Year. There are considerable risks!