Debate: Pass on the gap year

Taking full courses leaves the summer semester free for you to enjoy

(Kristen Frier)

(Kristen Frier)

Post-secondary education is a major commitment, and students who choose to pursue it often ponder the benefits and drawbacks of enrolling right after high school or taking a gap year before committing to a program in university. 

As a student who had to weigh out the pros and cons, I decided to pursue my four-year bachelor’s degree right after graduating high school. I started with three classes during my first semester in my first year of university. I purposely took three classes because I was working full time to pay for my education, and to see the workload. Transitioning from high school to university is a big change and I did not want to overwhelm myself. 

After completing my first semester, I decided to take four courses during the second semester of my first year. The change from three to four classes was not as bad as I expected, and my grades were not affected by this change. 

In my second year of university, I decided to challenge myself by taking five courses because I am a daredevil, and I wanted to graduate as soon as possible. Though it was harder than expected because I was still working full time, and I hardly had time for anything other than school and work. My social life was nonexistent. 

Even though I faced these challenges, I decided to take the equivalent of six courses in one semester following this. My rationale behind this was due to not taking prior summer courses. It was almost like catching up to what I did not take. Though I was very proud of my achievements after that semester, I vowed to never do 18 credits in one go again. 

As some students know, summer courses tend to be more challenging because the term runs shorter than the fall and spring semesters. This means the courses are condensed, which leads to content-heavy courses being more challenging. 

Since I missed out on previous summer semesters, I decided to take five criminology courses in the summer. This was a punishment and the amount of work I put into that single semester was unbelievable. 

In previous summer semesters, I would reward myself by travelling, prior to the pandemic. Travelling in the summer motivated me to do well in school and to stay focused. This is also why I opted out of a gap year. I was able to work, travel, and get my degree within the four-year time span, and did not feel like I was missing out. On top of that, I learned how to manage my time, which is a valuable skill in itself. Increasing my school load as I went along helped me transition into a university setting without feeling pressured or overwhelmed, however, everyone has their own pace. 

It is not a requirement to finish a bachelor’s degree in four years. If you are struggling with assignments, set up office hours and develop a mentor-mentee relationship with your instructors. Plan out your semesters with the courses you need. Instead of taking a gap year, consider travelling and taking time away from school during the summer months. Overloading on courses in the summer was a dreadful experience for me, and I learned my lesson.