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More and more students are taking their time out of formal education to go work or travel around the world. There aren’t any exact numbers but according to different researches, the number of gap year participants keeps rising and rising every year. They get out of their comfort zone and do something completely else with their lives. But there are many other reasons for taking a gap year. And of course, taking a gap year can have its benefits. This report will go deeper into the effects of taking a gap year and how that benefits one’s future. The central research question is: “How does taking a gap year prepare one for the future?”.
To be able to answer this question, some other questions need to be answered first. The sub questions related to the central research questions are:
· What entails taking a gap year?
· What are the reasons for taking a gap year?
· What are the benefits from taking a gap year?
In order to be able to answer the questions that are possessed in the introduction, research needs to be done. This report will use only secondary data, and thus no primary data. This means that only already existing data will be used, and that no new data was retrieved for this research. To be able to retrieve secondary data, desk research was done.
This report used sources retrieved from the online databases, such as Google Scholar and Nexis Uni.
There are many different and relevant sources about the effects of taking a gap year. One of those being ‘Review of Gap Year Provision’ by Dr. Andrew Jones from the School of Geography, Birbeck College, University of London and was published by the Department for Education and Skills of the United Kingdom. This report contains a lot of information on the benefits of taking a gap year.
Another important source was the qualitative study done by S. Rabie and A.V. Naidoo from the Stellenbosch University in South-Africa. They did a research among 11 first year Stellenbosch University students who took a gap year, and then wrote a report on the result of their findings.
The retrieved information was mostly qualitative. There was some quantitative information available in the sources used for this paper.
This paper did not use journalistic sources as there was enough information available from the academic researches done about gap years.
What entails taking a gap year?
“A ‘gap year’ refers to an experimental period of travel, work, or other personal and professional development opportunities. It is typically taken before students commence their postsecondary education”.
Piddock (2004) defined a gap year as “taking a year off between school and university to explore the world and career opportunities”. Jones (2004) defined a gap year as “any period of time between 3 and 24 months which an individual takes ‘out’ from formal education, training or the workplace, and where the time out sits in the context of a longer career trajectory”.
For the purpose of this report, the definition of Abdullah is being used. Also, gap year takers will be referred to as ‘gappers’.
What are the reasons for taking a gap year?
There are many reasons for people to take a gap year. In November 2012, the Centre for Analysis of Youth Transitions published a report in which they gave reasons for taking a gap year. These reasons include the ability to travel, the ability to become independent, the ability to earn money, the ability to get work experience and also the ability to have a break from study.
Jones (2004, p.37) states that:
The commonest factors cited in the literature can be summarized as: the desire to take a break from formal education or work; to gain a broader horizon on life; to experience different people, culture and places; to gain personal life skills; to enhance CV in relation to gaining university entry or employment [in a general sense]; to earn money; to make a contribution to society; to help people [altruism]; to meet a challenge; to have fun and for religious motivations.
Rabie and Naidoo (2016) found in their research that the most common motivating factor for engaging in a gap year was the fact that the participant was dealing with career uncertainty. 82% of the participants of their research relate their decision to take a gap year to the fact that they do not know yet what to do with their careers. They also claim that two of the participants experienced the familial pressure regarding their future as one of the reasons to take a gap year.
The most common gap year activities are travelling, volunteering and working.
Each of these activities may be undertaken for diverse reasons. Individuals may work in order to earn enough money to support later gap year activities, to provide for their proposed study, or to build a resumé in preparation for a planned career. Volunteering may occur within a local community in order to engage in civic activities or may occur in an overseas location, in which case travel and volunteering are combined.
To summarize, the most common reasons for taking a gap year are:
· The ability to travel;
· The ability to become independent;
· Earning money;
· Gain work experience;
· Take a break from study;
· Career uncertainty.
What are the benefits from taking a gap year?
Taking a gap year has many reasons, as could be read above, but it also has a lot of benefits. There have been lots of studies and researches to find out what the real benefits from taking a gap year are. The benefits from taking a gap year can be divided into two categories: the benefits to the individual gapper and the benefits the gapper brings to the society.
First the benefits the gapper brings to society. The first being volunteering. “Clearly young people working on the kinds of projects run through volunteering organizations such as Community Service Volunteers will benefit communities and groups for whom the work is done”. Though, volunteering is not only a benefit for the society. It also has some benefits for the gapper itself. First of all, the gapper will gain a lot of personal experience that can be used later in life. Second, volunteering can be added to the gapper’s resumé, and will look extremely well on it.
The second benefit for the society is the rise of tourism through gap years. A lot of gappers travel during their gap year or do volunteering work in another country. This way the gappers contribute to the travel agencies and other related companies. There are a lot of international companies providing trips or volunteering opportunities for gappers, and these companies rise as the number of gappers rises.
The first benefit to the individual gapper is improved educational performance. Most researches and interviews “refer to the argument that a gap year produces a greater degree of ‘maturity’ in a young person which enables them with a variety of skills to tackle a degree or other formal qualification more effectively.” According to a research done by Claire Crawford and Jonathan Cribb from the Centre for Youth Analysis of the United Kingdom, “gap year takers are 1.6 percentage points more likely to achieve a first- or second-class degree than those who went straight into higher education.” There are multiple ways in which gappers may enhance their higher education performances. These ways being: gappers gained experience in their year off which is useful for their education and gappers have “greater motivation to achieve educational goals” (Jones, 2004, p.59).
Another benefit for the individual gapper is the personal growth. During a gap year one can develop a lot of life skills that come in handy later in life. Gappers meet a lot of new people and get exposed to new social situations, and gain a lot of self-development from these experiences. According to Jones (2004) these are the life skills commonly associated with gap year participation: “greater independence & ability to take decisions; the development of interpersonal skills; problem solving; self-discipline; leadership skills; communication skills [e.g. team working]; managing money”. Rabie and Naidoo (2016) claim that the participants of their research indicated that they had acquired a lot of skills during their year off and that it had improved their ability to be independent from everything and that they now can manage their time, finances and the responsibilities that come down their paths.
The skills acquired by the gappers can be divided into two categories: soft skills and practical skills. Jones (2004) defined soft skills as the acquirement of interpersonal, communicational, managerial and organizational skills. Practical skills were defined by Jones (2004) as the gappers ability to apply the knowledge gained in the gap year in their daily activities.
1. Soft skills. In the research done by Rabie and Naidoo (2016) they claim that their participants described being exposed to a variety and a lot of different people in their year off.
These social interactions had a major influence on their interpersonal skills. Through the activities they engaged in and the people they worked with, the participants extended their social skills, became adaptable, tolerant and found themself needing to take others into consideration.
2. Practical skills. The most notable practical skill gained during the gap year was the participants’ ability to be able to manage their finances. For example, when one goes backpacking, he or she needs to be able to equally divide all the money available for the trip. Other practical skills include learning how to cook and learning another language
The next benefit to the individual gapper is the broadening of the horizon. By being exposed to all kinds of new situations, the gappers experience new situations and expands their knowledge and perspective on life.
Through interacting with people of different cultures and nationalities, the participants identified differences between themselves and other people, and vicariously gained self-knowledge which extended their perspective of their own interests, individual characteristics and personal preferences. Through their exposure to various occupational settings and with time to do thorough research on different careers increased.
Another benefit a gapper can gain from his or her gap year is the rise of confidence. Rabie and Naidoo (2016) found in their interviews with students who took a gap year, that they had increased their confidence in their individual competencies and characteristics. “Consequently, a gap year had served as a period of self-reflection, empowering the participants to form a more discerned identity. This provided the participants with clarity on their interests and preferences, which ultimately enabled them to decide on a career path”.
“The beneficial qualities of a gap year, however, largely depend on how structured and organized the gap year is”. Snee (2014) states that:
A key part of the successful gap year is the recognition that enjoyment is an intrinsic part of the experience, as long as orientations to doing something worthwhile are also evident. Thus, the gappers who only focus on having fun tell a less successful story than those who strike a balance, aligning with the imperative to be a well-rounded, socially conscious person.
To summarize, the benefits taking a gap year can have are:
· Rise of tourism;
· Improved educational performances;
· Personal growth;
· Broadening of the horizon;
· Rise of confidence.
Maybe the most interesting finding of this report is that there are no unique findings. There has been a lot of research done for the influence of gap years, and all of the results come down to the same thing, namely that taking a gap year can have a lot of positive influences on the gappers, but also on the society.
Of course, only the advantages of taking a gap year have been discussed in this report, and of course there are also some disadvantages. Though, there don’t seem to be a lot of disadvantages. And of course, this can be experienced different for every gapper. Not every gap year is as successful as another but the overall experiences seem to be quite positive. The gappers gained a lot of knowledge which is useful for their life later.
This raises a lot of questions. Is taking a gap year really worth it? Do the advantages weigh up to the disadvantages?
There are several themes in the finding of this paper that indicate that the gap year offers a range of opportunities, that it stimulates the personal growth, that it helps gappers to explore their interests, develop new skills that can be used later in life and develop their sense of identity.
This report was written in order to answer the question of how taking a gap year can prepare one for their future. A summary of the findings of this report is given, and therefore answers the central research question; How does taking a gap year prepare one for the future?
First, the definition of a gap year needed to be defined. There were different definitions found but the definition this report stuck to was that a gap year is a period in which a gapper can work, travel or do other personal and professional development opportunities and that the gap year is typically taken before students start with their secondary education.
Second, in order to be able to answer the main question, this report determined what the reasons can be for taking a gap year. The most found reasons for taking a gap year are: the ability to travel; the ability to become independent; earning money; gain work experience; to take a break from study and because of career uncertainty. Also, the most common activities during a gap year were discussed. These activities being: travelling, working and volunteering.
And last, this report looked up what the different benefits from taking a gap year are. The benefits from taking a gap year can be divided into two categories: benefits for the society and benefits for the individual gapper. The benefits for the society are the volunteering and the rise of tourism. The most noteworthy benefits for the individual gapper are: improved educational performances; personal growth; broadening the horizon and the rise of confidence.
Taking all of this information into consideration, the central research question can be answered. Taking a gap year does indeed prepare one for the future. As for the ‘how’ part: taking a gap year can have a lot of benefits and a gapper can develop a lot of new skills which can be used later in life in all kinds of situations. The gappers learn how to deal with different kinds of situations and from there can handle with these situations.
The answer to this question is really important, as more and more students decide to take a gap year. And of course, they need to consider what the benefits from taking a gap year can be during the making of their decision.
So the final conclusion of this report is that taking a gap year provides the gapper with a lot of knowledge that can be used later in life and that the gapper develops itself and their life skills during the gap year, and that that is how taking a gap year prepares one for the future that is ahead.
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