Posted September 16, 2020 by Mark Perna
Sticking your head in the sand could cause long-term effects. Here’s some advice. Mark’s article, “All The Wrong Reasons To Take A Gap Year In 2020—And How To Do It Right,” published at Forbes.com on September 10, 2020.
In the wake of COVID-19 and the sweeping changes it has brought to postsecondary education, more people than ever are thinking about a gap year—and they’re not just freshly graduated high school seniors. College students at all levels are looking at their education with a fresh eye, weighing their options and determining the best path forward.
Gap years can have tremendous advantages, but there may also be some pitfalls. For those who view it as 12 months free from all responsibility, planning, and the hard work of self-discovery, a gap year could cause more problems than it solves. But a true gap year is not a year “off” from personal and professional growth. Instead, it should give the young person a fresh competitive advantage in their education and career journey.A true gap year is not a year “off” from personal and professional growth. Click To Tweet
I recently connected with Harsh Patel, CEO of Galvanize, on what makes a fantastic gap year and what doesn’t. Here’s what he had to share.
As amazing as a motivated gap year can be, there are a lot of wrong reasons to skip school during 2020–21. Don’t take a gap year if you’re:
Bottom line: Don’t take a gap year to avoid being pushed to grow.
You might be a good candidate for a gap year if you’re:
Bottom line: Take a gap year so that you can grow in new and different ways.
Traditional gap years often include activities like traveling, volunteering on-site, and interning in the workplace. COVID-19 has put a damper on all of this, so what’s out there? “COVID-19 has opened our eyes to how well we can still communicate, be productive and make progress—personal or professional—from the safety of our homes,” says Patel. “One example is online bootcamps, offering students the chance to learn technical “how-to” skills they likely wouldn’t be exposed to in their freshman general education courses.
“There are countless ways for students today to use their gap year differently, but wisely.”There are countless ways for students today to use their gap year differently, but wisely. Click To Tweet
Living through a pandemic during your education has other benefits as well. “Generation-Z will have to be more intentional in their college and career choices from here on out—something that a lot of previous generations could have benefitted from,” says Patel. “Being thrust into an unprecedented period of disruption, they’re calling the status quo (signing up for tens of thousands in student debt and figuring out how to pay for it later) into question.
“Many may realize that with enough skills training, a four-year degree isn’t necessary after all—setting the stage for broad societal change.”
“Students have every right to be disappointed that this academic year is not what they expected it to be, but they should look for the silver lining,” says Patel. “Too often young people rush into college thinking it’s ‘the right thing to do’ even when they have no idea what they want to make of their careers. Now, time is on your side.”Students have every right to be disappointed that this academic year is not what they expected it to be, but they should look for the silver lining. Click To Tweet
No doubt about it: 2020 is the year that will redefine gap years. No longer just for freshly graduated high school seniors, the new gap year can be a great fit for anyone, at any stage of their education, who decides to pause their current pathway and try something new. “Students today have the chance to identify and dive deeper into what they truly care about so that when the world does reopen, they will be prepared to take it by storm,” says Patel.
Maybe it’s time to give yourself 12 months to rediscover your education and career passions. Who knows—it could lead to the adventure of your lifetime.