Taking a gap year is not an easy decision. For many, it’s largely unknown territory, making it a difficult thing to commit to—especially since it can potentially impact your finances, your career, and countless other aspects of your life. However, it doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems. In fact, many students refer to it as one of the best decisions they’ve ever made. And because of that, we decided to ask them about it to learn why it was so amazing. If you’re on the fence about taking a gap year, keep reading to get inspired by five students who took the leap, and find out what they learned in the process.
“It’s important to take time in your life to do things you love.”
“I decided kind of last minute to take a gap year so I could switch [my major] to pharmacy. I basically used the first half of the year to study for and take the PCAT, work as a pharmacy technician, and shadow on the side. That’s when I decided to start posting fashion pictures on Instagram and developed my blog. My time during my year off was key to figuring out what I wanted to do in life and hone my hobbies like fashion and photography. Honestly, I wish I hadn’t felt as bad about taking a gap year. I feel like there’s this huge stigma that you’re behind or don’t have everything figured out if you take a gap year, but it was one of the best years of my life and I would absolutely recommend anyone who’s considering it. Obviously it’s important to stay on top of things to reach your goals, but it’s also important to take time in your life to do things you love.” — Kimberly Pais, University of Michigan Pharmacy School class of 2020
“Even though it was hard to leave, it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.”
“I went into school not knowing what I wanted to do. My year off came at a time where I wasn’t at my best (grades or otherwise) and, even though it was hard to leave, it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. It really allowed me to find and focus on what I love to do. I kept busy during that time by working, interning, and staying involved with clubs on campus. When it came time to go back to school, everyone I talked with was incredibly impressed at how busy I stayed over the year. The biggest piece of advice I can give regarding taking a year off is just to do it. If you honestly don’t know what you want to do, take the time to explore! I personally felt like I was wasting my time at school before my year off because I didn’t have a clear path. My motivation was lacking. The gap year gave me an entirely new perspective and forced me onto a path that could benefit me in the long run (and a path I actually love being on!). Going back [to school] was so much easier and more fun because everything I was doing now had a purpose. Taking a year off was so important to me.” —Geordon Wollner, University of Wisconsin – Madison class of 2019
“If it weren’t for my gap year, I don’t know where I’d be now.”
“Right after my senior year of high school I took a gap year, and I’m very glad I did. I had been pursuing theatre in high school very seriously, but found myself at a sort of quarter-life crisis, caught between performing and visual arts. After an especially painful breakup and a sudden bout of health issues, acting and performing became especially strenuous. I didn’t know what to do because that was my identity and those were my goals. However, because, I took a gap year between high school and college and was able to take half my senior year off due to my schooling situation, I was able to pour that out into visual work and really hone my design and photography skills. This landed me in New York and on a trip to Europe, as well as a few awards that really helped cement what I was pursuing. I went to School of the Art Institute of Chicago for a year, then went to (and am currently attending) College for Creative Studies in Detroit for photography and fashion business. If it weren’t for my gap year, I don’t know where I’d be now. It added a bit more time to my academia adventure, but I’m very, very grateful I took that time to figure things out.” — Li Miller, College for Creative Studies class of 2020
“Never shy away from the things that worry you in life.”
“After finishing my photography foundation in London, I felt passionate about a lot of avenues, but the idea of setting my heart on just one was super scary. This is where my gap year (and, more importantly, the year that possibly changed my life forever) started. My head was full of ideas and I felt completely motivated for whatever was coming. I needed to earn some extra cash on the side so I started selling my beloved collection of clothes on the Depop app. One thing lead to another and my store Fifi’s Closet was born. I’ve always loved photography, styling clothes, and talking to people, so you could say that this was my dream job. After I made a few sales, I couldn’t get enough of it. I started to collaborate with some amazing creatives, such as Vulgar Vintage, and began to make some amazing, lifelong friends. Fifi’s Closet is now an amazing platform with over 150K followers where people can share their passion for fashion and celebrate their individuality. And now I’m studying textile design at the Chelsea College of Arts in London, still running Fifi’s Closet on the side, and pursuing some other exciting projects such as being a Style Guru for College Fashionista. My gap year taught me that you should always follow your gut instinct and never shy away from the things that worry you in life, because there is always a good time and positive vibe waiting for you at the end of the tunnel. You have yourself, and that is the most important tool in any adventure. Have fun and enjoy the journey.” — Fiona Short, Chelsea College of Arts class of 2019
“Everyone should know that it’s totally okay that things don’t go the way you always hoped they would.”
“[When I took a gap year], I was mostly trying to figure out my next move. I wasn’t going to university I had hoped I was going to so I was taking some time to focus on myself and my mental health. I really wish I had known before that it is 100 percent okay to not know what you want to do. I also wish I knew that I wasn’t alone! I found out that so many people felt the same way I did: Stagnant, inept, confused, and lost. Everyone should know that it’s totally okay that things don’t go the way you always hoped they would. Things will always work out, and you will eventually end up where you are meant to be. I’ve also realized through my journey that going to community college is not the end of the world. In fact, it’s actually a really smart move. I ended up starting at my county’s community college in January 2016 after my gap year, and I’m graduating this semester and hoping to go to a school in the U.K. in the fall!” — Derrian Douglas, Bergen Community College class of 2018
Have you taken a gap year? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!
Featured photo by @sarahgargano29.