As a high school teacher I constantly hear the question, “I told my parents that I don’t know what to do and I don’t want to waste money, should I take a year off to decide what I want?” If only I could come up with a definite, stock answer to casually tell students. A one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of should they work/travel/experience the world for a year after high school, or should they pursue post-secondary education?
So, Should You Take A Gap Year?
The real answer of course, is that each individual has to weigh the decision for themselves and choose the path that is right for their situation; however, we all know that at 17 years old choosing the path that is right for you can be a daunting task that is extremely easy to procrastinate and get confused about.
For the most part I must admit that I am biased towards a post-secondary education route. In the current economy skills are getting more and more specialized and it is important that you have something to offer companies. Please understand that this does not mean I am a, “University is for everyone and is the only answer,” type of person because I’m definitely not. In fact, for most students I recommend looking into a trade of some kind if they are not sure what to do. I often suggest doing this while still in high school because of some of the great trades-based programs provinces are now coming up with.
Even most government jobs require some sort of post-secondary education now. A degree or diploma of some kind is a great asset if you want to apply to be a firefighter or police officer for example. University is not for everyone, but soon, post-secondary training of some kind will be a pre-requisite for the vast majority of non-entry level jobs.
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The main problem is that many people from my generation, and the one that is following it, are so used to having things laid out for us and then merely taking the path of least resistance. This can be a real problem in terms of working towards an eventual long-term goal. There is very little immediate gratification in living the student life in order to give your career better prospects. When you get a job gratification is guaranteed to come every two weeks in the form of a pay cheque.
I Had A Buddy Who Went To School For A Year Then Took A Gap Year, What A Waste Of Money
The other problem is that everyone knows somebody who went to school for a year and decided it wasn’t for them. This gives us the perfect excuse to say something along the lines of, “I don’t want to go for a year and then waste all that money if I don’t like it.” I see the logic behind the statement, but the truth is that education is never a waste of a year.
If you throw yourself into the student experience you will learn something, make new friends, build connections, and just gain life experience. I can guarantee that.
Many students who decided to stay home use the rationale that they are going to work for a year in order to save up for school and avoid student loans. I have almost never seen this succeed the way it is drawn up. The setback that inevitably occurs is when you are working beside people who don’t need to save their earnings and consequently can afford all the ‘toys’ and luxuries that you should be forgoing in order to build up that bank account.
For most people the temptation to move out, buy a car (especially a new model that you have to make payments on), and then spend money on going out etc, is too strong. Once the cycle of rent payments, car payments and having some free spending money has started, it is very difficult to transition to the pauper life that many students live (not to mention the same lifestyle issues with academic requirements). I always caution students about this reality.
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Decide For Yourself
Everyone has to weigh the pros and cons for themselves, but the system is designed to best facilitate those that keep their educational momentum going after high school. Scholarships and application processes are just easier to fill out, you fit ‘the mold’ easier. Bureaucracies are built on people fitting into neat little boxes, and post-secondary education is no different. The more mainstream your path is, the less resistance you will encounter.
I have seen instances where young people decided not to go to post-secondary for a year and it suits them quite fine. They generally work, travel and broaden their horizons. I have never seen it work out for someone who gets a job, stays in their niche, and starts buying luxuries that they will never want to do without again. There are so many part-time, or one-year options out there for training after high school, don’t short yourself by chasing that immediate gratification every 2 weeks.