Academia is a demanding and formidable quest. By the time American students head to college, they have about 13 years of formal education under their belt. Many will choose to continue after the first cycle – the cycle is seemingly endless with semester after semester spent in class. It is difficult for most students to imagine a time when they did not spend the majority of the year in some academic institution.
There is an option for a break, although few American students consider it. Sabbaticals aren’t as common in the United States as they are in much of Europe – only about 3% of American students choose to take sabbaticals before college. The United States is a nation that idealizes endless grind. It’s the American dream, and college is a big step in that plan. A gap year would just be another hurdle at the start of their future – a future they might spend working to achieve their dreams or just working. Elderly graduates are encouraged to enter college directly, without much real-world experience or time off.
Gap years are incredibly beneficial for students. There is a perception among many Americans that young people will get lazy on a gap year and not choose to go back to school afterwards – a perception that is extremely wrong. One study found that 90 percent of American students return to school within the year, and they come back better equipped to handle college life. Students on sabbaticals report higher GPAs than their peers with comparable backgrounds who did not take a sabbatical. The sabbaticals actually had the largest positive impact on the GPAs of students who applied with lower grades, suggesting that a break from academic rigor may in fact be of tremendous benefit to students who may have applied with lower grades. -be already had difficulties with higher education.
Higher education is difficult for everyone, especially in a competitive institution like the University. Burnout threatens even the most study-inclined students. Sabbaticals can go a long way in helping a student’s mental health, especially if they are considering attending a competitive college. The mental health of American students is declining, and American students are dropping out at higher rates than most other developed countries, both due to the rigor and high expenses of the university. Sabbaticals offer a useful respite from academic rigor. Students have more time to process the transition, and the extra time allows them to feel better prepared for the challenges associated with an academic career. Those who continue directly to college are particularly prone to burnout. Taking a year off is a great opportunity to decompress and overcome any stressors that may have bothered high school students.
Americans are struggling, not only financially but also academically. U.Va. students understand the immense pressure – it is an extremely demanding institution. Taking a year off is an important precaution for your mental health if you think you might be prone to burnout in college, or even just want to give yourself a better chance at succeeding in college by breaking the monotony of education. have lived for the past 13 years.
The late teens and early twenties are some of the most formative years of your life. There are so many to discover that most fresh out of high school students haven’t been able to do it yet. Students are expected to find a major that reflects their career path and make incredibly difficult decisions about their future without experiencing the workforce or the world first. Sabbaticals are a unique opportunity for students to escape the bubble of their hometown and academia to find what really excites them. For the most part, that’s exactly what they do – 60 percent of students taking a year off say it changed or confirmed their choice of an academic major. The experiences students have during their sabbaticals allow for serious reflection on their future and their exposure to the real world, without the pressures they might have faced if they did so in college or high school.
Sabbaticals are also a great opportunity to save money before going to college. The cost of a college education in the United States is incredibly expensive and is increasing every year, so saving money is more important than ever. Students can take their gap year and earn full-time money to prepare for college. Working full-time during their gap year also gives students exposure to the workforce they may not have experienced in a part-time job in high school or college. They might also take the opportunity to get an internship that could help them network for their future careers, or even just show them whether the field they are interested in is really for them or not. Taking a sabbatical not only gives students exposure to the job market, but it is also a wise financial assistant for those who might have struggled to pay for their education right away.
Let’s normalize the sabbatical year in the United States. We are young – there is no rush to start college right away when you have the rest of your life ahead of you. Taking a year off isn’t lazy – it’s a smart move that can benefit you both financially and academically.
Allison Haszard is an opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Cavalier Daily. The columns represent the views of the authors alone.