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Why every learner deserves a gap year after high school

MS

Mihika Shankar

Nov 02, 2020

Remember the time you were a wide-eyed, bushy-tailed preschooler? When people at social gatherings asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, you probably said the most fascinating things like ‘rock collector’ or ‘animal rescuer’ or ‘space explorer’ - and everybody would applaud for dreaming big. Now imagine if you had said this as a teenager. Instead of applauding you, the same people would have doled out a good helping of career advice and pushed you towards a more conventional path that your society is most comfortable with.

So, what changed during the journey from pre-school to teenage? The sad truth of the matter is, as our children grow, we are grooming them to follow explored paths and execute orders. But we have deprived them of their ability to think for themselves. The only legacies we seemed to have passed on for generations are those of conformance and obedience. Somewhere along the way, we began to prescribe to the notion that the road to success is a straightforward one when in reality, it is one with plenty of de-tours, crossroads and dead-ends.

In the face of this reality, why do some societies still push young people into taking the linear path to success - a college degree followed by a lucrative mode of employment - with little heed to the learner’s passions and interests?

Stepping off the academic hamster wheel

Learners in the Nordic regions of Europe have been taking gap years since the 1960s and it is working wonders for them. The U.S. is also following in those footsteps and is using gap years to address poor mental health among their teens. In a country like ours, where we fight the battle against illiteracy every day, we most certainly cannot demerit the benefits of higher education or completely discount the need for a conventional college degree. However, as most of the world is coming to realize - learning with purpose is far more effective in producing driven and fulfilled individuals.

In India, taking a gap year is still a rather unconventional choice and is viewed with scepticism in most societies. In this blog post, we explore common misconceptions about the concept of gap years.

What a gap year is:

  • It is a highly structured and guided transition from academics:

    A gap year in fact is becoming more than a ‘gap’ in one’s life. Learners are realizing the time they take off is actually a bridge to go from where they are currently to where they want to be in the future. As a result, a multitude of high schools and colleges are offering their services in counselling and mentorship to help students structure their year(s). Keeping this in mind, Beyond offers learners a personalized Bridge Program that allows them to consciously step out of conformity and explore their interests in several areas before they make important career and life choices.

  • It is a financially sustainable way of learning:

    Contrary to popular belief, a gap year need not burn a hole in one’s pocket. There are plenty of budget-friendly ways that learners can learn new skills and explore exciting places during their time off.

  • It is tied to greater career prospects:

    At a time when the system is mass-producing professionals in a few select fields, imagine the potential of each student when they take time off and gain clarity on the path they truly want to pursue - much-needed opportunities in lesser-known fields will arise! Students who bring the wealth of a gap year experience to the table make for more qualified and employable candidates in a teeming workforce.

What a gap year is not:

  • It is not a year lost

    When a learner bows out of the rat race and focuses only on his or her individual journey, time is rarely of the essence in achieving goals. Therefore, it is essential to look at a gap year as time gained and not time lost. What a gap year experience may take away from a learner in terms of time, it more than makes up for in experience.

  • It is not a vacation

    While many students incorporate travel into their gap year plans, it is not intended to be for recreation alone. Travelling to different regions allows young people to immerse themselves in new cultures, learn new languages and sensitize themselves to the way people live around the country or the world. Several students who have worked outside their hometowns vouch for the life-changing influence their travels have had.

  • It is not a fad

    Gap years are not a fad or a fleeting trend. The benefits they offer will be just as relevant to learners irrespective of the era they live-in; greater self-awareness, renewed passion and responsible ownership of their own careers and lives.

Ultimately, the decision to take a gap comes down to each learner and his or her family. Ask anyone who has taken this decision and they will tell you that learning continues and takes many interesting forms outside the classroom: it happens in stadiums, laboratories, art studios, musical concerts and places waiting to be discovered by the modern world.

Want to know more about taking a gap after high school? Don't want to get stuck in the wrong course or career? Visit the Beyond 8 Gap Year Program page to know more.

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