Why You Should Consider Taking a Gap Year
As I finish my second year at Dawson and my thirteenth year in education, I dread to think about having to face yet another semester in college. My time at Dawson, though I have treasured it, has been anything but steady. From a Psychology Profile student to a General Social Sciences student to finally finding my place in Literature, school for me has mostly been about confusion and making constant difficult decisions. As I ask fellow classmates and graduating peers about future plans and university paths, I find I am not alone in my disorder and wonder if I should perhaps take a look at the big “G”: taking a gap year.
Sarah Dane, my older sister, first inspired me to investigate the benefits of gap years when she chose not to complete her final semester of CEGEP in the summer of 2021. As she worked toward a Pure and Applied Sciences DEC, different events led her to opt out of her final semester. “Studying in STEM felt very restrictive. It’s the kind of program you start preparing for as a high school student and work so hard towards that it doesn’t even feel like an option to leave. Taking time off felt like I was throwing away years of hard work. I felt like I was proving to myself that I wasn’t good enough or smart enough to keep up with all my smart, high-achieving peers,” Dane explained.
Two years later, Sarah enrolled in university in a Studio Arts program, a complete 180 from the initial path she was on. “In the end, ‘throwing away’ those years of hard work was worth it. I did something with myself and figured out who I was and what I enjoyed outside of school. I knew if I stayed, I would always wonder: ‘What if?’ Going back to school would always be an open option, but staying, at the time, felt like hell,” Dane continued.
For some, going on a sabbatical year can seem like a stain on a school application or work resume. However, certain high-ranking schools even suggest taking time off before or during university. McGill’s website offers resources and planning aids for students wishing to take time off. From articles on the benefits of taking a gap year to financial and planning services, students are welcome to explore the possibility of taking a break without sacrificing higher education. Harvard’s website also states that they “encourage admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way.”
Financially, gap years can be beneficial or detrimental depending on how one spends it. On the one hand, taking time away from school means being able to work full-time and save up. On the other hand, in many fields, higher degrees often mean a higher pay grade and a gap year can delay the time one will take to reach that level.
Statistics Canada released a study in May 2022 dissecting the short and long-term economic effects of taking a gap year. The results of this study were complex. In fact, men and women who had taken a gap year before enrolling in a postsecondary degree made an average of 11.6% and 12.5%, respectively, less from the ages of 17 to 31 than their counterparts who did not take a gap year. However, taking a gap year was positively associated with earnings among men who enrolled in a non-degree post-secondary program, who made an average of 14.6% more than those who had not taken any gap year. There was no association found for their female counterparts as their salaries averaged the same amounts as those who had not taken time off.
So, nothing conclusively defined gap years as reducing future income. Basically, people have various goals, career plans, and forms of earnings that could either be severely impacted, improved, or left untouched by taking a year off. Having the time to get hands-on experience in different fields by applying for internships or positions available to high school or CEGEP graduates, however, means one can acquire more knowledge on the field they aim to study in, either helping them further their studies when they return to school or, instead, letting them find out it might not be the right path to follow. Essentially, if money is a worry, what matters when taking a year off is planning accordingly.
A semester or a year off can mean everything or nothing. Time off can be just the reset a student needs after years of endless studying and the tireless routine of yearly back-to-school anxieties. Sometimes you need a break. School is not your sole purpose as a human being.