If you're anything like me, then you know how difficult it was going into university with a declared major when you had no idea if it was the right choice. Now here you are, two years into your degree program, and you're still questioning if this is even what you want to do with your life. You feel like you are stuck in a rut of either sucking it up and just dealing with the next few semesters, or you feel the uncertainty of changing your major so late in the game. The third option is one that so many people see as the worst choice of all, taking a gap year. So, what are you to do?
For me, I choose the gap year, and it was the best decision of my life.
What so many people think about when considering taking a gap year falls around the ideas that they will fall behind on graduating "on-time"; you'll be seen as lazy, or you'll feel as if you have failed. Well, I am here to tell you that yes, these things will happen. But they will be the best things that can happen to you. When I first decided to take a gap year, I was at the end of my wits. I had lost complete motivation to go to my classes, I felt like I was a robot when I did go in and I was only applying myself enough to get a passing grade.
Every time I tried to speak to anyone about my inner struggle, immediately I was told that everyone goes through this phase and that I just needed to push through my classes and graduate. This never felt right, why should you just have to settle for what the norm is and be miserable when you should be trying to better yourself. I started researching motivations for college and how to just pull through when I stumbled on a post talking about how taking time off helped rejuvenate their mental state. So, if taking time off in the real world, post-college, was OK then why wouldn't it be OK to try it out in college?
Society has this perceived notion that they place on all of us: once you start to fall behind you are a failure. I think that's why so many of us try to steer clear from the idea of taking a year off, its almost as if your mental health break is a vacation in the world's eyes. A study conducted by the Gap Year Association found that when students take gap years, 84% gained skills in order to become successful in their aspiring careers. 51% Took this time to explore other studies, and 73% increased their readiness for college.
I can tell you from my personal experience without the pressures of university looming over me, I was able to sit and really reflect on who I wanted to be as a person. I traveled to new places, I moved cross country and back again. I was able to rediscover my passions in life. I did all of these things without being stuck in the commitment of my degree's program, and I also stopped myself from wasting money on studies I no longer had the interest in perusing.
Now two years later I am back at my university, under a new major, knowing that I am confident in what I want to study and where I want to go in life. Again, don't freak out because you will watch your friends graduate before you. Remember your family will have zero understanding as to why taking an entire year, or more, off will somehow benefit you. But more importantly, know that you will watch yourself grow into a new person. So, go. Get out there, take the year off and explore the world, or just take some time for your mental sanity.
In the end, this decision can help you pave your way and save yourself from a list of questions of what if's.