1.Introduction

Over the last ten years gap year has
become a recognized, institutionalized and professionalized phenomenon
(Simpson, 2005). In many countries, there is
an increasing trend for young people, whom, after leaving high school, delay
their higher education, leave home, pack their bags and set out to explore the world,  to learn outside the academy.
Traditionally,
a gap year represented a break from formal education or employment in order to
find time to engage in extraordinary experiences. An estimated 200,000 British people aged 18–25
annually take a gap year. The
practice of the gap year has expanded considerably in the last ten years, with
a corresponding rise in its public and institutional profile. (Dean 1999).  By taking a gap year, they seek for adventure, which
is a chance to live independently in a world far different from that they ever
known. Many students choose to take an international volunteering gap year,
spending a year in a developing community teaching or doing social work. It is
advantageous for students to take a gap year as they can gain a great amount of
knowledge and experience, which help them succeed not only in their higher
education but also in their future jobs (Bindloss & Hindle, 2005). This paper, based on
secondary data, will discuss the reason why students take a gap year, the
benefits students can gain when they choose this path and some suggestions to
have an efficient year off

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2.Discussion of findings

2.1. The reason
why students take a gap year

 Spending a year away from home is an appealing idea to
nearly everyone. (Whitehouse, 2013). Findings indicate that
students
take a gap year for many reasons,
reflecting their various statuses
in life. A recent survey by the American Gap Association (AGA) revealed that 92%
of gap year participants wished to gain new experiences, 85% wished to explore
new cultures, 81% wanted a break from academics, 48% wished to do volunteer
work, 44% wished to explore possible career paths, and 41% wanted to learn a new
language. According to
White’s idea of the compensatory function of volunteer work (White,2009), gap year takers intended to use
experience to obtain a variety of perceived benefits, often to develop skills,
perspectives, and traits that they felt they lacked and had not been developed in school.

Specifically,
people
tend to use the gap
year as a ‘break from education’ or the ‘academic treadmill’ or to get out of a
‘bubble’ or ‘sheltered life’. They
want a time to be grown-up,
and some use the gap year as a rite of maturity. One student reported: ‘I want to
figure out how I am independent of my parents and community’, while another
said he wanted the year to gain the ‘independence to make decisions and to live
on my own’ (O’Shea,2014).
Takers desired to develop a broader or different
perspectives
of the world, deepened
understanding
of other cultures
and languages,
and to clarify future life plans (e.g. degree course, career goals). For some,
they did a gap year partially because they felt young for their year in school,
to have the pleasure of travel and friends, or to enhance curriculum vitae for
university admissions or employers.
However, for some students, the year was motivated by the
desire to escape from their home environment, family problems or mental health
disorders (e.g. depression),
at that situations, they consider a year off as a treatment.

 

2.2.
Benefits of taking a year off

Students considering gap
years may wonder: is a gap year worthy? Schroeder’s survey
showed that gap year participants had positive experiences. They consistently
praised their gap years, telling some of  their gap year’s experience: spending time for personal
reflection (98% of students), building up maturity (97% of students), and
increasing self confidence (96% of students) (Schroeder,2017).

To begin with, the biggest advantage
of taking one-year sabbatic to explore the world is that it gives them an
opportunity to discover their career interest. Such trips are not only fun ,
but also  gives  them  a chance  to  socialise ,
engage in volunteering, and understand global issues  and global cultures . This helps them to discover
their real passion which is the foundation for a fulfilling career (Jones
2004). Taking Jack Flight (a
18-year-old boy in Bethel, Maine) for example, he decided to defer his higher
education, and ended up changing his course. Several months working with the
children in an Omaruru’s village inspired him to change his career and go down
a social work path when he came back home. (Hoder,2014). Besides, when
they begin their courses, having clearer goals will probably motivate them to study,
and their practical skills can
enable them to organise their time effectively (McMillan 2005). For instance, data from
Harvard University, 2010, pointed out that drop-out rate from university
courses in children who chose the course after taking a gap year is about 10 per cent lower
than  those who headed straight to
university after the high school.

In addition to this, working for a
year before starting university
may reduce the financial burden of higher education to some extents. As the advanced studies
are costly in most countries, working for a year could helps them save up money for accommodation such as living costs, food,
spending on personal interests so they are under less financial debt
when they start higher studies.

Learning and exploring new activities such as volunteering, taking part
in community work, joining local clubs, learning foreign languages, etc, is
also a huge benefit associated with a gap year. These fascinating activities
help students learn new skills which are applicable to their futures lives in
college and workplace. Working with the community and other people makes students
appreciate and understand their culture and also boosts the confidence of
students because they have chances to communicate with people of diverse ages
and knowledge. Moreover, travelling and learning new languages make students
more sociable. All these valuable skills and qualities gained as a result of
travelling or working as volunteer can help in dealing with problems in
universities, raise one’s professional experience and improve their career prospects. And when they are
ready to start working after finishing university,
they will have employers queuing up to hire them (White,2009). 

Ultimately, gap years are a
fantastic opportunity for students of all ages. Taking a gap year is truly a
priceless opportunity in lifetime. Later in adulthood, you
cannot spontaneously go on a year-long adventure, so what better time to do
this than when your brain is youthful and energetic?

 

2.3. Suggestions for an effective gap year

If students decide
to take a gap year, it is essential to plan
what they want to do thoroughly and make sure they understand their reasons of
a year off as this will lead them in the right
direction. Gap year does not have to be all about
travelling because you can still have a beneficial year out of education
through work experience. Getting a job that directly relates to the course can
help students obtain deeper understanding of the major that you choose to go. There are
many organisations which can help with gap year ideas and more information about
what is involved. These organisations can be helpful, but you donot
have to use one. Asking for pioneers’ advice is a good idea
as they can share with you many practical experiences gained from their own
trip. However, gap years are not  for
everyone as readjusting to an academic timetable after spending time abroad can
be a shock. You also need to consider your finance carefully to survive without
your parents’ support.

 

 

3. Conclusion

The above analysis has shown that delaying the academy year for higher
education brings real gain in moral and intellectual development. A gap year
out of formal education seems to offer students benefits beyond those in the
classroom; as a result, it could also help them to take full advantage of their
university experience. In the end, these gap years may help universities to
form not just professional future employees, but citizens with good manners. There
will be more demands for deeper understanding and further study to expand this
trend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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