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Over the last ten years gap year
has become a recognized, institutionalized and professionalized phenomenon
(Simpson, 2005). In many countries, there is an increasing trend for young people, whom,
after leaving high school, delay their higher education, leave home, pack their bags and set out to explore the world,  to learn outside the academy. Traditionally,
a gap year represented a break from formal education or employment in order to
find time to engage in extraordinary experiences. An estimated 200,000 British people aged 18–25
annually take a gap year. The practice of the gap year has expanded considerably
in the last ten years, with a corresponding rise in its public and
institutional profile. (Dean 1999).  By
taking a gap year, they
seek for adventure, which is a chance to live independently in a world far
different from that they ever known. Many students choose to take an
international volunteering gap year, spending a year in a developing community
teaching or doing social work. It is advantageous for students to take a gap
year as they can gain a great amount of knowledge and experience, which help
them succeed not only in their higher education but also in their future jobs (Bindloss &
Hindle, 2005). This paper, based on secondary data, will discuss the reason why students
take a gap year, the benefits students can gain when they choose this path and
some suggestions to have an efficient year off

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2.Discussion of findings

2.1. The reason why students take a gap year

 Spending a year
away from home is an appealing idea to nearly everyone. (Whitehouse, 2013).
Findings indicate that students take a gap year for many reasons, reflecting
their various statuses in life. A recent survey by
the American Gap
Association (AGA) revealed that 92% of gap year participants wished
to gain new experiences, 85% wished to explore new cultures, 81% wanted a break
from academics, 48% wished to do volunteer work, 44% wished to explore possible
career paths, and 41% wanted to learn a new language. According to
White’s idea of the compensatory function of volunteer work (White,2009), gap
year takers intended to use experience to obtain a variety of perceived
benefits, often to develop skills, perspectives, and traits that they felt they
lacked and had not been developed in school.

Specifically, people tend to use the gap year as a ‘break from
education’ or the ‘academic treadmill’ or to get out of a ‘bubble’ or ‘sheltered
life’. They want a time to be grown-up, and some use the gap year as a rite of
maturity. One student reported: ‘I want to figure out how I am independent of
my parents and community’, while another said he wanted the year to gain the
‘independence to make decisions and to live on my own’ (O’Shea,2014). Takers
desired to develop a broader or different perspectives of the world, deepened
understanding of other cultures and languages, and to clarify future life plans
(e.g. degree course, career goals). For some, they did a gap year partially
because they felt young for their year in school, to have the pleasure of
travel and friends, or to enhance curriculum vitae for university admissions or
employers. However, for some students, the year was motivated by the desire to
escape from their home environment, family problems or mental health disorders
(e.g. depression), at that situations, they consider a year off as a treatment.

2.2. Benefits of taking a
year off

Students considering gap years may wonder: is a
gap year worthy? Schroeder’s survey showed that gap year participants had
positive experiences. They consistently praised their gap years, telling some
of  their gap year’s experience: spending
time for personal reflection (98% of students), building up maturity (97% of
students), and increasing self confidence (96% of students) (Schroeder,2017).

To begin with, the biggest advantage
of taking one-year sabbatic to explore the world is that it gives them an
opportunity to discover their career interest. Such trips are not only fun ,
but also  gives  them  a chance  to  socialise ,
engage in volunteering, and understand global issues  and global cultures . This helps them to
discover their real passion which is the foundation for a fulfilling career
(Jones 2004). Taking Jack
Flight (a 18-year-old boy in Bethel, Maine) for example, he decided to defer
his higher education, and ended up changing his course. Several months working
with the children in an Omaruru’s village inspired him to change his career and
go down a social work path when he came back home. (Hoder,2014). Besides, when
they begin their courses, having clearer goals will probably motivate them to study,
and their practical skills can
enable them to organise their time effectively (McMillan 2005). For instance, data from
Harvard University, 2010, pointed out that drop-out rate from university
courses in children who chose the course after taking a gap year is about 10 per cent lower
than  those who headed straight to
university after the high school.

Participating in activities such as volunteering, taking part in
community work, joining local clubs, learning foreign languages, etc, are also
huge benefits associated with a gap year. These fascinating activities help
students develop a skillset which is applicable to their future lives in
college and workplace. Emily Louise Key, studying logistics management at the
University of Derby (Derby, England), compared working as an accountant with travelling in Switzerland,
Austria and Italy and said that the experiences from taking a gap year really
helped her prepare for student life as it she had to be independent without her
parents (Thorne,2016). Extra curriculum activities make students appreciate and
understand their culture and also boosts the confidence of students because
they have chances to communicate with people of diverse ages and nationalities.
All these valuable skills and qualities are irreplaceable as they can help in
dealing with problems in universities, raise one’s professional experience and improve their career prospects. And when they are
ready to start working after finishing university,
they will have employers queuing up to hire them (White,2009). 

In addition to this, working for a
year before starting university
may reduce the financial burden of higher education to some extents. As the advanced studies
are costly in most countries, working for a year could helps them save up money for accommodation such as living costs, food,
spending on personal interests so they are under less financial debt
when they start higher studies.

Ultimately, gap years are a fantastic
opportunity for students of all ages. Taking a gap year is truly a priceless
opportunity in lifetime. Later in adulthood, you cannot spontaneously go on a
year-long adventure, so what better time to do this than when your brain is
youthful and energetic?


2.3. Suggestions for an effective gap year

If students decide to take a gap
year, it is essential to plan what they want to do thoroughly and make sure
they understand their reasons of a year off as this will lead them in the right
direction. Gap year does not have to be all about travelling because you can
still have a beneficial year out of education through work experience. Getting
a job that directly relates to the course can help students obtain deeper
understanding of the major that you choose to go. Living with a host family or visiting
tourist hotspots also add to the highlights.

 Considering one of the organizations which
provide gap-year solutions may work when you have no idea about what to do.
There are many organizations which can help with gap year ideas and more
information about what is involved. These organizations can be helpful, but you
do not have to use one (. Asking for pioneers’ advice is a good idea as they
can share with you many practical experiences gained from their own trip. You
also need to consider your finance carefully to survive without your parents’
support. If you do not have any gap-year plans that really excite you, you
might postpone your break after trying one year in college, then decide what
you want to do next.


3. Conclusion

The above analysis has shown that
delaying the academy year for higher education brings real gain in moral and
intellectual development. A gap year out of formal education seems to offer
students benefits beyond those in the classroom; as a result, it could also
help them to take full advantage of their university experience. In the end,
these gap years may help universities to form not just professional future
employees, but citizens with good manners. There will be more demands for
deeper understanding and further study to expand this trend.

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