• Himansu Varghese

Gap Year 2020: 5 Reasons Why It Makes Sense for High School Students

You’ve prepared for your board exam, you expect a decent score, now you’re planning to take your first steps into getting a college degree and start working in a couple of years.

But alas! The coronavirus has other plans for you! Board exams have been delayed and canceled in some cases. Entrances like the JEE have been postponed with no definite date in the near future, and most universities have announced a completely digital-first semester, probably the entire year. This is clearly not how you planned to go to university, but unfortunately, you have to accept whatever comes your way. Or do you?

2020 is the ripe year for many Indian students to attempt what is common in the US, the concept of a gap year. A year break from formal education to try and gain skills, experiences, and practical knowledge before resuming a traditional degree education. If you are a high school graduate, here are 5 reasons why you should opt for a gap year instead of running off to college.

  1. Universities having online semesters: Almost all the major universities in the US have declared that their medium of instruction will be shifted to online materials rather than classroom sessions. However, most of them have not reduced fees or given discounts. This prompts the question of whether it is worth your time paying exorbitant prices for predominantly online education? Besides, you could learn the same things for significantly lesser online from other resources. The campus life is what college is mostly about, and if that is removed from the equation, then the return on investment question remains unanswered due to lack of opportunities to mingle with peers and network.

  2. Democratized online education: Picking up new skills online has never been easier. There are great online resources available such as Coursera, Udemy, EdX, Udacity, etc that will help you learn very useful knowledge, from highly qualified instructors verified by the top universities. For instance, would you prefer doing your local college’s computer science course, or Harvard University’s computer science course? Many of these resources are cheap, and some even offer good amounts of financial aid! Even free resources such as YouTube and FreeCodeCamp have excellent courses on a very wide range of subjects.

  3. Ability to explore other areas of interest: Our thoughts, dreams, and aspirations are heavily influenced by what surrounds us. We frame our future plans based on very few variables that we are aware of, and therefore we might not have a holistic idea of what we want. For instance, I personally was quite certain that economics is my passion, and I wanted to be a researcher in the field. However, once I started exploring all my other options, reading up online, and talking to people from the field, etc, my world view improved drastically and I wanted to try out so many things! The sooner you have this revelation, the better, and a gap year could facilitate this transition.

  4. Real-world experience: There is no question that bookish knowledge and real-world experiences have an ocean of difference. And so I am of the opinion that getting some exposure to things you are interested in will give you an upper hand in understanding theoretical subjects better. The gap year can be used to get a part-time job, work on a startup idea that you’ve always had, learn a new language, learn a new musical instrument, start a blog or a youtube channel, or if the situation permits travel a little. Whatever floats your boat! The important thing is to try out whatever you can. Fail first, fail fast. Because success is a lousy teacher.

  5. Low risk: Taking a gap year in 2020 doesn’t look bad on your resume in the long run. A crisis is a great social equalizer and therefore, taking a year off doesn’t have too much bearing on your future plans. In the long run, there won’t be a significant downside career-wise for a student who takes a year off to pick up some new skills this year when compared to a student who decides to go ahead and attend Zoom classes from an average college.

The Indian education system is skewed towards exams over learning, success over excellence, and salary over knowledge. Therefore there is no question as to what your next step is because the society has already designed your plan for you by way of parental and peer pressure, and ill-informed school systems that propagate the idea of an “ideal student”.

But that is not your only option, especially this year. In the grand scheme of things, you have very little to lose, and a lot to gain just by dropping a year. Because once you start running again, life doesn’t give you a chance to slow down!

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