Take a Break or Get to Work?: The Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year
Summer is officially here and unemployed college graduates may be feeling restless. Many recent grads struggle with the choice of either going directly into the work world or taking a “gap year” and enjoying their freedom before starting to look for work. Although some individuals may think getting a job right after graduation is essential, others find gap years to be very beneficial.
There are several reasons why a recent grad may want to take some time off. Often it’s to relax, take time to travel, or get the partying out of his or her system before committing to an eight hour work day. But Taylor Snyder, a recent graduate of Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and a new Sales Assistant at Discovery Communications says “Opting to get a job directly after graduation was a great decision. I’m really glad I started working right after I got out of school. I make my own money now and don’t have to rely on my parents financially. I’ll also have the opportunity for promotion at an earlier age, and it keeps me busy! I still have the weekends to go out with friends and enjoy my summer.”
Although Snyder is an advocate for working right after graduation, others feel very differently. Caroline Morris, a recent graduate from Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, believes taking time off is a great way to learn exactly what you want to do with your life. “I don’t really think there are any cons to taking time off after graduation. It gives me more time to look for a job I really want rather than stressing and taking the first job I get,” Morris says. “After four years of college, it’s nice to be home and enjoying some time off before I have to start working for my entire life. If I had gone directly from full-time student to full-time employee, I’d be dreading it. This is the only time we have to relax, hang out, and enjoy ourselves without any responsibilities or attachments.”
If taking time off completely doesn’t sound appealing to you, there are plenty of alternatives to spending the summer lounging by the pool. Mariah Honecker, a recent graduate of the Mason Gross School of Visual Arts in New Jersey, has big plans for her time off. “Finding a job that you’re passionate about is so important. I want to find a job I really want to do, not something that’s convenient,” she explains. “I’ve lived in New Jersey my entire life, I’m not a well-traveled person. I’ve been applying for residencies in Europe. Basically, for an extended period of time I would live, work, and study with other artists. I think it would be a great way to further my career and I can’t wait to have the opportunity to travel.”
If studying abroad is something you’re interested in, there are lots of programs that offer college graduates the opportunity to travel to other countries. The Critical Language Scholarship Program (CLS) allows current students and recent grads to study abroad for two months at an overseas institution. There they can study one of 13 languages deemed critical for United States diplomatic, trade, or security purposes. This is a great opportunity that combines traveling and learning, and it is paid for by the CLS. Another alternative way to spend your time off is by teaching English abroad, like through the Fulbright Fellowship opportunity in Taiwan. You could even teach students in low-income schools throughout the country through Teach for America.
Depending on how you spend your time off, you might have the opportunity to beef-up your resume before applying to jobs. Lastly, one of the best things you can do after graduation is reflect. Take time to think about the last 4 years and how they’ve changed you as a person. And if none of this sounds appealing, there’s always grad school!