“The only road to real success is to become more fully oneself, to succeed in the field and on the terms that one defines for oneself.”
–Ducey, McGrath and Fitzsimmons Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation (Revised 2017)
Many Canadian students go from elementary school to high school then straight to post-secondary education. This is 16 year period of none-stop education can cause stress and anxiety for many students. Going from one institution to the next with their own set of rules and expectations to be strictly followed by the students doesn’t allow for much freedom and development. Plus, students are pressure to find a career path by grade 10! For all those who were able to predict they would be doctors by 15, I say, “kudos!” to you. But for the rest of us who are still trying to figure it out, wouldn’t it be great to have a break during this stage?
A “gap year”, or a defined period between studying periods taken off to work and travel abroad, has many benefits for young adults. Many post-secondary institutions are recognizing these benefits and are encouraging and rewarding students who take gap years. Harvard University provides information on their admissions page on an interim year and they encourage students and their parents to take a gap year before starting freshman year. For students who do not have the means for a self-funded gap year, Princeton University has a “Bridge Year Program”. This program provides freshmen students a tuition-free year in an international location to provide community support. The intention is to “provide participants with greater international perspective and intercultural skills, an opportunity for personal growth and reflection, and a deep appreciation of service in both a local and international context.”
A gap year does not need to be affiliated with a university or college. Any student who is able to defer or take a year off can take a gap year. It can be between high school and post-secondary, during post-secondary or even between post-secondary and employment.
This is a time for students to push their boundaries and become independent by leaving everything that is familiar to them and learning to navigate without the help of someone else. They become more culturally tolerant by making international friends, learning a new culture and maybe even a new language. Most importantly, it’s a time for self-reflection and self-growth. The student should do something that interests them and find what makes them unique.
“Extraordinary achievements are never based on emulating someone else’s achievements, but on some unmeasurable combination of (a) marching to one’s own specific and unique drummer and (b) accidentally—perhaps unconsciously—doing something that captures the Zeitgeist in new and unexpected ways.”
-Ducey, McGrath and Fitzsimmons Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation (Revised 2017)