The value of gap years

Hat tip to Seth Godin for bringing this up:

Millions of college-age students have to make a difficult decision soon. Spending all that money and time has always been a significant choice, but now it’s more fraught. The accredited institutions that are now suddenly offering students an online education simply haven’t committed the time or effort to actually be good at it. They’re offering something without effectiveness, polish or insight.

The alternative is a gap year. Not just for college students, but for high school students and even adults.

Consider a Gap Year

In my opinion, a gap year is possibly the best thing that can ever happen to me. I was fortunate enough to be able to afford one in 2012. And while I had major revelations about my working style, preferences, and the whole enchillada, I also came to know who I was at a deeply personal level.

The challenge with gap years is that they mostly happen to people. I was fortunate enough to plan it for myself. My agenda was to learn, study, upgrade my skills, and contribute (while creating change and a significant impact) to my professional association as a volunteer leader. Along the way, I also realized who I was and what I really wanted to become — something I’d never done in a decade as a working professional.

I couldn’t ever be any less grateful not only to have had such a splendid experience but also to my loved ones (surprisingly, a very few) who unconditionally supported me through the journey. It takes a lot of faith to do that when the whole world’s thinking of you as an irresponsible husband and father of a two-year old.

Unfortunately, most cultures still consider a gap year an irresponsible (inconsiderate, perhaps?) decision. Employers still look at it as a stain in your resume or perhaps judge you for making the biggest career mistake in the history of the industrial civilization! And thankfully, there isn’t a speck of truth in any of that. It’s a bunch of BS that the society wants you to believe. I wish I had a clearer explanation but I don’t think anybody does. (Maybe Seth knows?)

Clearly, this isn’t for everyone. It takes a lot of courage to make the leap. If you’re a student, I believe you should take a year off and do what you want to. If you’re a working professional without relationship commitments, you should seriously consider taking the gap year as soon as you can. And if you’re already committed, it’s not too late. Straighten up your finances, think of ways to leverage your skill-sets (or build one) so you can fall back on if things go south.

Yes, I know, it isn’t comfortable. Heck, it’s outright daunting. But when it ever be any less uncomfortable or daunting? Never. And most importantly, if you’re not doing it now, then when?

I think Seth sums it up the best, “The discomfort people feel when they consider a gap year is precisely why we ought to spend more time considering it.”

P.S. If you’re considering a gap year, here’s a wonderful resource that I wish I knew back then:

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