Before finishing high school in 2018, I knew I wasn’t ready to jump into post-secondary right away.
At that point in my life, I was tired of the routine. I woke up early to walk to school, attend four classes a day, do homework, study for major exams, and work on top of that. During Grade 12, I constantly felt stressed about my grades. Making sure they were high enough to get into college or university and pressured to apply to a school as soon as possible.
I could feel myself burning out, and taking a year off to figure things out was for the best.
Many students in their last year of high school feel this way, or may not know what career or job they want to pursue.Taking a gap year can help some students figure out what they want to do when they return to school, gain work or volunteer experience, travel worldwide, and better understand who they are.
According to Denver Gap Year, a gap year program in the United States, 60 per cent of gap year students said taking a year off helped them decide what they wanted to major in and took their academics more seriously. In addition, research from AGA found that 90 per cent of students who take a planned gap year return to school within the following year and are more likely to graduate on time with a higher GPA.
Before attending Kwantlen Polytechnic University, I grew up in St. Catharines, a small city close to Niagara Falls in Ontario. During my gap year, I worked full-time to save money to travel to B.C. for the first time, visiting cities across the Lower Mainland and Okanagan, and put money aside for post-secondary. I also lived fairly close to Toronto, so I would spend a lot of my time going to concerts and wandering around the city. It was fun being able to travel pretty much any time of the year without having to worry about a school schedule, homework, or tests.
In addition to travelling, I made new friends through my job at the time. I also spent more time on interests that I am passionate about, such as writing, drawing, and learning how to play the piano and ukulele. During that year, I learned how to budget my money effectively and I also had more time to think about what I wanted to study and where.
After applying for school and getting accepted in 2019, I checked out Humber College in Toronto and KPU before deciding where I wanted to study. If I didn’t take a gap year, I probably wouldn’t have been able to fly out to KPU to make a more informed decision.
However, one of the cons of taking a gap year was that I felt behind all my friends who did go into post-secondary right after high school, which is a common feeling people have when they decide to take a year off school. It was also challenging to transition back into school in the first few months, and not everyone understood or accepted my decision when I told them.
Nevertheless, I would recommend a gap year. As a safety net, people can always apply for post-secondary and defer their admission for the following year.
Although it might look different now due to the pandemic, the opportunity may never come again, and it never hurts to build your resumé, gain new skills, meet new people, and learn more about yourself.