Should Your Teen Take A Gap Year?

Gap years were once a popular alternative for high school graduates. A time of life to evaluate one’s options and career paths, travel, explore different ideas or perhaps volunteer somewhere, the gap year was considered an important part of one’s growth and education.

As life has grown more intense and competitive, the idea of “wasting” a year to wander has been tossed aside in lieu of the preferred American ideal of going straight from high school to college and then to work. While a gap year might not make sense for everyone, it can certainly be a benefit and there are some good reasons to consider letting your teen take one. Here are four reasons your teen should take a gap year.

1. Choosing A Career Path

While it’s common for young adults to be unsure about what they want to do with their lives, most have at least an inkling of the direction they’d like to go. But if they really have no idea, taking a year off before committing to a degree program could be a good idea. College is expensive and while teens often figure out their path while pursuing their degree, sometimes taking a year off to work or explore different avenues will help them solidify their long-term goals.

2. Discovering Other Cultures

Travel is its own education, and for those not wanting to immediately settle into the grind of college or work life, it can be a great way to help them figure out their path. Visiting other cities or countries broadens one’s horizons in ways that cannot be replicated, and spending time working and living amidst another culture can also lead to an appreciation of home and all its privileges. With modern technology and increased air travel, our world has become very small. Being aware of how things work on a global level, respecting societal norms in different countries and learning other languages can improve their lives both personally and professionally.

3. Networking In Preferred Industry

If your teen has an idea of what they want to do but aren’t sure about making it a career choice, working in that industry at a lower level job or internship can be a great way to figure it out. Interns often get to try their hand at a wide range of tasks within a certain career field, and can learn much more about what the job entails than any classroom can teach them. They can also make very important connections that provide long-lasting results, such as personal recommendations for job opportunities that may lead to a better chance of furthering their career.

4. Avoiding Burnout

Today’s society moves very fast. Many students are enrolled in intense, high-level classes, with some even taking college classes before they’ve completed high school. Teens take and re-take the SATs and ACTs, fighting to improve their scores and up their chances of getting into a good school. College students are double-majoring and piling on the course loads, all in the interest of getting ahead as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, this kind of insane pace can be detrimental to one’s physical and mental health. Burnout in teens and young adults is a very real problem, and can lead to depression, illness and even suicidal thoughts. Taking a break from the rat race and getting out into the world, finding some space to breath and regrouping can make a big difference in how they may view their future.

The world does move fast these days, but slowing things down for a minute might give your teen what they need to eventually outpace the masses and achieve their dreams.