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Why It’s a Great Time to Take a Gap Year

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Is now a particularly great time to consider taking a gap year? Yes—but not for the reasons you might think.

The ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic continues to affect all of us and has been a major jolt to the plans of students all around the world. In July, Harvard University decided to cut the number of on-campus students for the 2020-21 academic year by 40% according to the Washington Post.[1] If you do happen to make one of those housing slots, your educational experience will likely not differ from those who choose to stay away from campus: almost all classes will remain online even for those who are living in on-campus housing.  

“Many will be spending a great deal of time taking class from their rooms.” Yet, tuition will remain the same. 

Similarly, Princeton University is cutting half of its on-campus housing students and providing the large bulk of academic teaching online, even for those who are on-campus. They will be providing a 10% cut in tuition. The University of Southern California is now asking all students to reconsider being on campus for the 2020-21 academic year. Most of their classes will be provided online, according to CNN.[2] 

Many schools are following suit or are delaying the start of classes in the hopes that the healthcare situation will change. Almost all students have had to re-evaluate at least some portion of their educational plans. In light of these adjustments, could it be possible that a gap year is a good idea?

A Good Idea

The fact is that gap year programs are almost always a pretty good idea. In one National Alumni Study (2015), the Gap Year Association found that those who have attended gap year programs are more satisfied in their jobs, more engaged in civic activity, and almost three times more active in community service when compared with traditional college graduates.

  • More satisfied in their jobs (86% compared with less than 50% nationally); 
  • More engaged in civic duties (63% compared with 36% nationally); 
  • More active in community service (89% compared with 25% nationally).

But won’t gap year attendees fall behind academically? Not necessarily. In fact, the gap year program may be an unexpected academic boost. Gap year attendees tend to have higher GPAs in college when compared with national norms. And they graduate in a shorter amount of time—four years on average for a gap year attendee when compared with over five years nationally.[3]

 The bottom line is this: in the same amount of time that it takes an average college student to earn a four-year degree, a student can gain all of these benefits by attending a gap year.

How do I know if a gap year program might be good for me? Most of those who attend a gap year program report one of the following: (a) they don’t feel 100% ready for college, (b) they feel burnt out from the academic competitiveness of high school and want a break, (c) they want to gain life experiences and grow personally, or (d) they want to travel, see the world, and experience other cultures—maybe even learn a new language. In other words, if any of these are true for you, a gap year program might be a perfect fit.

The greatest benefits of a gap year program might come from the personal growth that attendees say they experienced. A gap year is a time for personal reflection that results in development as a person, increased maturity and self-confidence, better skills for interacting with people from different backgrounds, better communication skills, and greater knowledge, understanding, and respect of other people and places in the world. 

Now is the Time

So, yes, now is a good time to consider a gap year program, but not because the benefits of these programs are unusually great in a non-COVID world. More importantly, the pandemic reminds us that the world is uncertain and temporary. 

Just a few short months ago, the idea of a worldwide pandemic and all the significant changes it would bring was unthinkable. But God can astound us with the plans he has for us. In light of the uncertainties in the world around us, let’s invest in what is absolutely rock solid: the coming kingdom and the inevitable spread of the gospel in the world. This is what the Radical Gap Year is all about.

Now is also a good time to remember how short life is. As I write this, over 100,000 people have lost their lives to the coronavirus in the United States alone. People are dying and they need to hear the gospel. They need to hear that though their bodies are wasting away and though our lives can be cut down by an enemy that is too small to see, there is a God who has defeated death and provided us with a down payment on an indestructible life together with him for eternity. 

People all over the world need to hear this Great News, and the Radical Gap Year is built on the urgency of our very short lives.

 We often make plans to “change the world.” But now more than ever, we are reminded how the plans we make can change in a minute. As followers of Jesus, let’s not aim so low as to only change the world. Instead, let’s think, “How can I invest in eternity?”

 How will you leverage the next four years of your life for the sake of the gospel so that others can experience eternal life? The answer to that question will impact the eternal destiny of those around you as well as those all around the world. 

[1]Accessed at https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/07/06/harvard-reopen-with-fewer-than-half-undergrads-campus-because-coronavirus/.

[2]Accessed at  https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/07/06/harvard-reopen-with-fewer-than-half-undergrads-campus-because-coronavirus/.

[3] Source: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center https://nscresearchcenter.org/signaturereport11/.

Scott is the Director of Global Outreach at McLean Bible Church in Mclean, VA. Scott completed his Ph.D. in Missiology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, writing on the importance of church involvement for missionaries. Having lived among Muslims, he has a burden to see them, as well as all peoples on earth, know and love God in Christ.
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