Crushing the Gap-Year Stigma

I want to give you a little backstory to how this article idea came about. I'm currently trying to type this on my iPad (much harder than you think) while riding a Megabus to NYC because I had a spark of inspiration. My friend of 16 years shocked me 10 minutes into our ride with the news that she decided to take a gap year. She made the spontaneous decision February of her senior year. And I fully, completely, unconditional support her for doing this. She recognized that this was the best decision for her and I have never been more proud of her!

I would recommend this path to anyone (and I already have). Why am I so passionate about it? Great question.

1. More people you know are doing it than you realize.

Here's the honest truth. The infamous gap-year is more common than you think. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise.

What I came to find out fall semester of my senior year was that my friends fell into either 1 of 2 categories: they had job offers or they had no clue where they were heading once they walked off that graduation stage with diploma in hand. I came to the realization that I didn't know my friends as well as I thought. The more I opened up about my career anxieties, the more my friends would tell me they were having the same confusions. I remember crying for 20 minutes in Panera with one of my girlfriends once we finally admitted to each other that we had no clue which career path we wanted to take.

I didn't know this until I was knee-deep into senior year. It's almost the Voldemort of undergrad talk and I still don't know why. If I'm being completely honest, I was embarrassed to admit it to anyone for months, but your path is your path. It's time to kick out the judgments of other people.

2. You might have doubts about your career so why go down a path your not 100% certain with? There's nothing wrong with taking time to figure that out.

I think now more than ever we are pressured to be constantly fast-paced, rushing through life. Scratch that, the expectations now are to sprint through life. The best analogy I have to represent my time in college is a bike wheel with failed brakes, trying to slow down but physically unable to. Fortunately, with my luck, I've had that actually happen to me while exploring the city streets of France. While I was barreling down the biggest hill in Marseille about to run into a car, I had to make a fast decision. I could either crash into the car that appeared unexpectedly around the corner, or I could use my sneakers as my brakes. I chose to put holes in my favorite shoes because well...I didn't want to die, but also because I didn't want to see how that crash would pan out if I could prevent it.

I don't even remember when I decided my major. When I asked my friends this question, none of them could recall that moment either. That blew my mind! Why is picking your major (one of the most crucial decisions you will make as a young adult) not remembered by any college seniors? Don't rush into your profession if you're having doubts. Save yourself the stress!

3. You will never be able to take time off like this again once you have a job.

I don't know about you, but a year to travel and discover more of yourself sounds super attractive to me. We're young, spontaneous, and physically able to experience the crazy adventures life has to offer. Sure, you might be pretty broke but that's even more of a reason to just go travel while you can still have that mindset. Some of my best travels came from sleeping in hostels, picking places because they had the cheapest flights, and finding hole-in-the-wall places to eat because they had great food at an even better cost.

Many people will tell you that the traveler mindset of a 20-year-old is better than a 60-year-old solely because you fail to plan . You make decisions on what you can afford and that can lead to unexpected places with unforgettable experiences.

4. You can set a goal to accomplish during your gap-year to help you make the most of it. Make it a year of self-awareness, discovery, vacation for your mind - whatever! Make it a year of what you need it to be.

My friend I mentioned above told me she is making this her "year to re-center." She went on saying, "I'm on this path I think I want, but I need a year to make sure I'm going in the direction that's right for me...It's going to be a mental check-in."

Burnout is a real thing people. Constantly straining yourself without a break can have serious consequences on your health. Set aside a goal for your gap-year. You will have time to research possible professions, gain mentorships, discover your priorities, and get that itch to start your professional life.

If you've decided to take a gap-year, welcome to the crazy ride many people are excited to embark on. Crush that stigma!