Taking a gap year is bold, which also makes for a hard decision. In this episode, Michelle Dittmer shares the common trends she's been hearing on why some families are hesitant on taking a gap year and why some are leaning towards one.
The top reasons getting in the way of families choosing a gap year:
1. Not wanting more 'wasted time.' While grade 12 has seemed like a write-off and 2020 might as well have not happened, students don't want to 'waste' another year - let's just get on with it already!
While this is a very real feeling, ask anyone who has taken a gap year and they will tell you that it is not a waste of time. The things that young people learn, the people they meet, the experiences that they have become lasting skills, friendships and memories that shape who they are as a person. They will also tell you that they have a better sense of where they want to go in life, in effect, leapfrogging their peers who blindly went onto post-secondary without a pause.
2. Falling behind. Watching your peers 'move forward' while you are not racking up credits that can be placed on a transcript can feel scary. It takes a boldness to stand up to the status quo, to question the socially defined pathway and to do something differently.
BUT studies show that those who take a gap year actually finish their undergrad in fewer years than those who didn't because they took some time to really figure out the right path, get clarity and make better decisions about how they are going to spend their time and money to study something that makes more sense for them and their futures.
3. Don't know what they could do. This one is the #1 reason folks turn down the gap year pathway. They can't imagine life not being a student. With COVID around, they think that travel is off the table so what else could you do anyway?!?!? Sit around all day and wait for the year to pass? NO!
There are hundreds and thousands of things to do - formal programs, earning credits, working, volunteering, starting a business, building a portfolio, learning a language or instrument. It just takes some research and creative thinking but this could be the year that changes your life! If you want to be inspired, come check out the Gap Year Expo today to get some ideas so you can see what might be possible for you.
The top reasons families are leaning towards a gap year:
1. Mental Health: For sure, this is the #1 reason families are concerned. This year has been unbelievably stressful, youth are feeling burnt out, unmotivated, disconnected and bummed that they have missed out on the entire grade 12 experience. Gappers are looking for a way to get excited about life again, take a break from the academic pressure and find joy in activities that make them feel good rather than stressed.
2. Zoom Fatigue: No more online school. It's been very clear that students, for the most part, aren't excelling academically or socially with so much of school being online or restricted. Now that we are seeing how slowly the vaccine is rolling out, it is becoming clear that "returning to normal" might take longer than we want it to. Why take a chance at online classes next year too? Pushing pause can buy some time for the horrid virus to get under control.
3. Value: This one is actually two different interpretations of values. First, young adults have realized how much they have learned outside of school. All of the 'adulting' skills and 'life' skills that they actually use, rather than factoring polynomials or balancing chemical equations. They are hungry for more experiences that will teach them things that they need in order to be successful as an adult - they value experiences more than ever.
The second interpretation is the value of higher ed fees. Is it really worth paying full tuition but missing out on half of the "university/college experience"? Many families have talked to family friends with folks who did a first-year last year and are finding that it is not what they want to sign up for and pushing pause makes sense.
4. Long Road Ahead: You would be shocked at how many students are planning not only their undergrad but also med school, law school, masters and Ph.D. pathways - like, almost another decade of school! These students are saying that they need to regain some energy before committing to the equivalent of two more high school careers. Taking a year off of being a student is a great way to flex some other muscles, heal the exhausted brain and recharge your batteries so you can have the power to make it through the next round of education.
The Canadian Gap Year Association is a not-for-profit organization here to support your make the right decision for you. Sign up for a free 30 minute workshop to help you make a decision that's right for you.