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Should my teen take a gap year?

By Dina Halaseh , Family Flavours - Jun 12,2022 - Last updated at Jun 14,2022

Photo courtesy of Family Flavours magazine

By Dina Halaseh
Educational Psychologist

After high school graduation, students are expected to choose their specialisation and decide what they want to do with their lives. This might be very stressful for most students, so a gap year could be a solution.

A gap year is a year taken by students right after high school to help deepen their knowledge, experience and understanding of themselves, as well as what career options might suit them best. 

Some people argue that deferring a year to discover oneself might result in losing that momentum and not going back to finish any degree. Studies show that this is not the case. Taking a gap year does not mean that your grad will not go back to school.

However, many students tend to forget and lose many study skills after quitting for even one year. They are, to an extent, used to attending class and studying after high school; taking a gap year off means losing many of these hard-earned skills.

 

Self-discovery

 

The positive side of high school graduates taking a gap year is the opportunity to gain experiences and understand themselves better to help reflect on what they want to do next and what career options they might enjoy and excel at.

According to brain science, the part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) in charge of making decisions, time management, and many other skills don’t fully develop until age 25. Yet we ask 17 and 18-year-olds to decide what they will be doing for the rest of their lives without giving them practical experience in these career paths.

During a gap year, students discover what they can and can’t do, their passions, strengths and what they’re good at. This, of course, doesn’t happen overnight, nor if students just sit there on the couch watching television and playing video games. There are a few things that they need to do to get there.

Filling this year with as many experiences, stepping out of their comfort zones and trying new things will be the key to helping them with self-discovery.

 

Hybrid gap year

 

A simpler option is available for those interested in trying a gap year but don’t feel like it is the right choice for them: A hybrid model. Going to university while only taking a few courses per semester helps give students the flexibility to work or volunteer while trying college, giving them more time to explore and engage with their interests.

In their gap year, students can take their time finding new hobbies or skills, taking on an internship or volunteering.

The reality is there might not be any other time when students can take a year off to expand their knowledge and horizon. So it might be vital to use this opportunity to travel and build their understanding of how life works outside the boundaries of their high school, country and families.

Many believe that travelling is the only way to spend this gap year. The reality is that even though travelling does expose us to new cultures, traditions and different ways of life, it is not the only way. There are many things that a person can do during this gap year that don’t cost a fortune. 

 

Reprinted with permission from Family Flavours magazine

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