As high school seniors across the country prepare to graduate, many are wondering the same thing: should you take a gap year? Between standardized testing, the pressure to excel, and the looming prospect of being dumped into the real world, the end of high school can be stressful, to say the least, and as a result, taking time off between high school and college is becoming a surprisingly popular option. There are no official statistics on the number of graduates choosing to take a gap year, but judging by increasing number of gap year programs available, students are definitely interested.
As always, however, the idea has its detractors. Opponents of gap years point out that without the structure of an academic environment, some students may lose the motivation to attend college at all, and next thing they know, they're living in their parents' basement at age 36, wondering where it went wrong. Until now, there had been little research on the subject either way, but according to recent research, your chances of a basement-dwelling, unemployed future as a result of the gap year you took at age 18 are slim to none. Whether you end up that way thanks to some other life choice is still up in the air, though.
According to Science Daily, the Finnish study analyzed data from the FinEdu longitudinal study, which collected information on students for several years after they graduated secondary school, and the results show that gap year students suffer from no lack of motivation. "Those who take a gap year quickly catch up with the others in terms of study motivation and the effort they put into their studies," lead researcher Professor Katariina Salmela-Aro said.
The longer you wait between high school and college, however, the harder it is to get back into the swing of things. "In the transition phase, many young people are left quite alone," Salmela-Aro said before pointing out that gap year students are "slightly more susceptible" to dropping out of university later on.
On the other hand, going straight to college has its own drawbacks. Although these students tend to be more committed to their goals and believe more strongly in their ability to achieve them, the study also found that they found studying more stressful than their peers who took time off. In light of that information, maybe everyone should take a gap year — college students are already known for their insanely high levels of stress, which news outlets in the U.S. have taken to calling an epidemic.
According to Salmela-Aro, a gap year allows students to "think about future choices while developing a positive view of the future," a.k.a. getting some much-needed perspective outside of the daily grind of school. So if you're considering a gap year, it's definitely not the path to slackerdom your mom is convinced it will be. Taking time off between high school and university isn't the end of the world, and it might even help your mental health in the long run. Besides, you don't want to miss out on rubbing your freedom in your friends' faces when they're cramming for finals.
Trust me, that never gets old.