Due to the ridiculous cost of post-secondary education and my own indecision about that quintessential high school question “What do you want to do with your life?”, after graduation I found myself still at home while a majority of my peers went off to start anew at college or university. Over the summer I was a nervous wreck, not knowing how the following year would progress. Taking a year off was leaving too much unknown for someone who had spent the past 14 years in school. This was a feeling I should have had after university, not before. But I had no other options.
The truth is I needed to take the year off. Without it I would likely have enrolled myself in some program I was only mildly partial to at some university I hated. Likewise, without it I wouldn’t have realized how desperately I needed to be in school. There are two sides to my gap year and so I share with you the pros and cons of taking a year off…
- Like I said, I had no idea what I really wanted to do. This year allowed me to take the time to really think about how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. Without the year off, I probably would have taken Sociology at the university closest to my house–the program is general, I can do quite a few things with it, and I had a lot of friends who were applying/planning to go to the same school. Now I realize I would have hated it. Come the fall I will be going to my dream school which just happens to be across the country and will be focusing on the thing that I am most passionate about: theatre & film. I’ve set up my timetable already and am more than excited for the school year to start.
- I was able to save up some money to help contribute to my education. I never scored a full-time job, but I did work fairly steadily for six months. (More on this in the cons…)
- I got to visit quite a few universities to see my friends. Everyone wanted me to see how they were living in their new setting, so I got to really understand university life and see places that I would potentially want to go to. I even sat in on some lectures to see how a university classroom worked! At the end of the year, I got a slice of university life at 5 different schools. On top of that I gained a lot of insight from my friends who told me things they wish they’d known before applying for their program or to their specific school.
- Room preferences! Because of my year off, I have the extra student attribute when applying to residence of being a gap year student. To be honest I’m not quite sure what this means–I’m crossing my fingers that because of it I’ll end up getting a single room like I’ve asked for.
- Though this isn’t something I did, I know a lot of people who returned to high school for at least one semester to raise some marks. I considered doing this, but then realized I would probably have hated everything and gotten rebellious. (“I’ve already done this, I’m above your petty little high school!” &c.)
- I made quite a lot of new friends–not just at the schools I visited, but also from my own high school. There was a handful of people who stayed back/took a year off as well, so I ended up getting to know a few more people in my own area who I never really hung out with in high school. It’s a nice phenomenon how much everyone changes between high school and university; everyone is so much nicer and open to making new friends.
- I hate my house. I hate living at home. The amount of breakdowns I had because I’ve been ready to “fly the coop” since grade eleven and yet have been forced to remain for a year longer than expected really took a toll on me. That’s perhaps why I’m going to school so far away.
- I cannot begin to describe how lonely I felt as everyone left in late-August/early-September. One week I could call on my friends as I wished, the next everyone was moving in, having orientations, posting photos on Facebook about Frosh Week, making new friends, and forgetting about little old me sitting at home doing nothing.
- It took me forever to find a job. I spent the whole summer looking and was finally employed in mid-September. Maybe not too bad, but two weeks without friends was terribly lonely when I didn’t have any distractions.
- Not being busy with some kind of work that challenged me intellectually drove me crazy.
- Building on that last point, because I have had so much time in the past year I have taken procrastination to a whole new level. I thought I was bad in high school but nowadays I’ll take months to do simple things (i.e. getting my G2, getting new headshots, filling out my “Statement of Activities” for my school application).
This year off has been anything but enjoyable. In November, when I realized I had ten months of suffering left I wasn’t sure I could make it. I fell into a major depression. Come February I struggled to make it through a shift at work without crying. Finally in March I had to quit. I started focusing on getting healthy, both physically and mentally. It was a relief when I received my acceptance letter in early April after my birthday, but that didn’t cure me. I’d been applying for different jobs since February and hadn’t had a single interview–this brought on a whole new stress about contributing to school, though my parents told me we’d be all right and I’d still be able to go.
Thankfully I’m doing better now, 31 days away from my big move. I know more than ever where I want to be and that is at school. I’m not worried that I won’t be able to fall back into being a student, it’s one of the things I enjoy most in the world.
Everyone has their own reasons for taking a gap year, and not everyone has a choice. The truth is I might be stronger now because of what I’ve gone through in this year. Twelve months means so much more to me now and I refuse to let another dozen get out of my control. I know what I want to do in life and that is not to sit around waiting for things to happen. September 1 is when my new life begins and I promise there will be no gaps from here.
There are pros and there are cons, but a gap year is only positive or negative based on what you make of it.