Even though the concept has been around for many years, it seems that it is becoming far more commonplace for recent college graduates to take a so-called “gap year,” before going on to graduate school or entering the workforce. The term itself is incredibly broad in its scope, but it is generally defined as an extended period of time in which an individual explores a wide range of opportunities to develop a better understanding of the goals they wish to pursue in the future.

The gap year most commonly occurs in the year following the completion of an undergraduate degree, but the truth is that you can pursue gap-year opportunities at any stage of your academic or professional career. Colleges and universities are generally accepting of students who wish to pursue an opportunity during a gap year, and several Ivy League institutions like Princeton and Harvard actually encourage the practice to recently accepted students.

Is Taking a Gap Year for Everyone?

There is an endless array of reasons why you might consider taking a gap year, but, according to Nancy Behrman, president of Behrman Communications, the most logical rationale lies in the outcome. The overwhelming majority of those who take a gap year do so for the purpose of self-discovery, which is most likely when you are able to step away from the rigors of academic life in order to gain a bit of perspective regarding what truly motivates you each and every day. Being exposed to different people, places and cultures over the course of a gap year provides a sense of perspective that often leads to enlightenment of an ideal course of action to pursue.

If you already have a plan in place and feel confident in where that plan will lead, then the gap year may not necessarily be something you need to pursue. You might be better off by going right into grad school or by seeking the seed money you’ll need to get an entrepreneurial endeavor off the ground. On the other hand, if you are unsure or lack confidence in where your academic career might be taking you, then a gap year may indeed be an ideal solution for you to consider.

Gap-Year Opportunities for Recent Grads Are Plentiful

The world is much more connected today than 30 years ago, which means that there are endlessly opportunities for recent graduates all over the globe. Before entering grad school or beginning a professional career, you can spend time abroad while experiencing life in different cultures and earning a modest living in the process. There are even many service-work programs designed specifically for those seeking a gap-year opportunity, often with living expenses taken care of in exchange for working or volunteering.

Of course, the gap year can really be anything you want it to be, which is one of the most beneficial aspects of this increasingly popular concept. Perhaps you simply want to go backpacking for months at a time, or maybe you have the financial means to travel from country to country while only working here and there. As long as the gap year helps you develop a better understanding of the goals you wish to pursue in the future, the concept will have served its purpose.

Clear Benefits in Taking a Gap Year

It’s no secret that academic life is incredibly demanding and can leave even the most outstanding students completely burned out, which is why many of the top schools in the country have found that students who take a gap year before entering an undergraduate or graduate program tend to perform much better when they return. There are also financial benefits to taking a gap year, as you will surely save money by confidently determining the academic degree you wish to pursue instead of switching majors time and again in an effort to find the right one.

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