By Anna Nickerson
Photo: Anna kayaking in Maharashtra, India on her gap year program
I took a gap year with a structured 9-month program last year. To say that it was the best decision of my life would be an understatement. As a result of my gap year, I grew in ways I didn’t know existed. My perspective of the world shifted, I began to learn what it truly means to practice “self-care” and most importantly, I learned more about myself than I ever imagined. Because of my highly positive experience on my gap year program, I’ve become a huge advocate of gap years in general. I truly believe that everyone should take a gap year, whether they travel the world like I did, get a full-time job, or even volunteer at a local charity. Taking a year off between high school and college is the ultimate way to challenge yourself, get out of your comfort zone, and to become more introspective. I’ve noticed, however, that when prospective gap students message me on Instagram or send me an E-Mail, one of their first questions is, “Did you feel like you were missing out on college during your gap year?” In other words, “did you experience FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)?”
No, I didn’t feel that way at all. I felt just the opposite. In fact, I often felt badly for the people from my high school and even my closest friends who decided not to take a gap year, which is unfortunately the majority of high school students. While I was getting my SCUBA certification, my friends were pulling all-nighters at the library. And when I was staying with my host family in Costa Rica and practicing my Spanish with them, many of my friends were feeling depressed and homesick in college.
This isn’t to say that everything will go perfectly on a gap year, or that college is always miserable! There’s a balance to find in both experiences, but I know that my gap year has allowed me to become a better student in college now as I’ve improved my time management, self care, and other necessary life skills. So many students are afraid of going off the “traditional path,” or not going directly from high school to a 4-year university and then finding a job. My response to all of them is this: at what point in your life after college will you be able to find the time to take an entire year off from school and either travel the world, explore a passion, or even start a business? Whatever it is that you want to do on your gap year, now is the time!
In the words of Lloyd Humphreys, “To be comfortable is the stupidest thing you could be at your age.” Gap years allow and encourage you to grow through making mistakes, getting completely out of your comfort zone and learning outside of the classroom. The decision is up to you, are you going to have FOMO if you don’t take a gap year?