People go in thousands of different directions after college. Some go straight into working nine to five jobs, others continue on to more school in the hopes of furthering their already well-established abundance of education and some take some time off to travel and learn more about themselves. Now, nearing the halfway point in my senior year, I have been contemplating what my future will look like after graduation more than ever.
For the past two years, I have been wholly convinced that I would go straight into a master’s program after undergrad and jump straight into the workforce from there. I had never given much thought to the cost of grad school tuition or the student loans I would incur. Even more so, I never began to think it possible that I would feel burnt out by the end of senior year. Any thoughts of not going to grad school immediately following undergrad were usually quickly washed away with other thoughts of, “You’ll be a failing yourself if you don’t go” or “If you don’t do it now you’ll never want to go back.”
It is only recently that I have been able to seriously consider the merits of having an option other than entering straight into grad school. Taking a gap year has always come with some amount of stigma. After all, the whole idea of college is to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life, right? So, if you don’t know and need to do more exploring, then was college just a waste? Gap years can certainly offer a chance to figure out your career prospects after college but they do much more than that. They give people a chance to breathe without the notion of constant work hanging over their heads. They can allow for volunteer or abroad experiences that help strengthen resumes. They offer opportunities to make more money and save for future plans like grad school or moving to a different city. And for those that aren’t exactly sure what they want to do once they have graduated, they can offer some amount of time to think before you spend huge amounts of money on higher education or get stuck in a job you hate. Either way, a gap year option doesn’t sound so terrible from this perspective.
Of course, there are some professionals that say they frown upon people taking gap years. Susan Hosage, a senior consultant and executive coach at OneSource HR Solutions said that she feels, “a year off after college to play is a bad idea… it is most likely to be construed by an employer as the applicant’s lack of discipline, lack of commitment to their course of study/profession, as well as a need for recognition and reward for accomplishments.” With this mindset, it seems as though taking a gap year could be misconstrued as laziness, rather than trying to form a better plan for the future before jumping into a career or continued education plan. However, this idea, that an applicant has a “lack of commitment to their course of study,” is the exact reason that many people feel the need to take a gap year. After all, isn’t it better to know you’re joining a profession that you are passionate about rather than one you begin to hate?
Students that end up taking a gap year overall say they find it immensely helpful, and many employers do too. According to a study done by the Gap Year Association, “88 percent of gap year graduates report that their gap year had significantly added to their employability” By providing students with alternate opportunities, gap years appear to make adults more employable, rather than give examples of laziness and lack of work ethic.
When looking to the future, it is difficult to say whether I see myself taking a gap year or continuing straight into a graduate education. However, it is clear that both options have pros and cons. While many may still believe that gap years only serve to increase laziness in high school and college grads, this stigma is quickly changing as people begin to have increasingly unorthodox career paths. Whatever the future holds, it is important to keep an open mind and realize that while one path may not be what you expected for yourself, it might lead to a brighter and more well-rounded future.
Emma Hungaski is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.