A Year of Doing Absolutely Nothing

In my last post, I talked about how to afford education. Another option that I didn’t mention, and that the web links didn’t speak to, is a gap year.

A gap year is a relatively unknown thing in North America, but is very prevalent in the UK and Europe. Technically (if you can get technical about these things) a gap year is taking a year off between high school and college or university and not doing any study or any work.

Unless young people are independently wealthy, the “not doing any work” part might be considered optional. A year of work might be the best choice. Consider this study, brought to my attention by Ken Steele’s Academica’s Top Ten. While it’s just an abstract, unless you want to “Buy NOW”, it appears to show some positive effect on academic motivation.

I don’t have a study at the tip of my fingers, but I’ve heard people refer to the danger of taking a year off: that the year becomes a lifetime and the person never enrolls in college or university (gasp!). However, I wonder if anyone has ever studied my hypothesis: that students who have low academic motivation and who enroll in university and who drop out after their first year (we know those stats are very high) might have better academic success if they took a gap year. This chance of better success likely outweighs the cost of those who do not return to study or who never enroll in the first place.

My son is taking a gap year, mostly because he can’t afford university immediately, but also because he’s not quite sure what academic track he wants to pursue. We’re supportive of his decision and we’re not really worried about whether he will enroll in university next year. He’ll be much more secure financially and will have another year to mature and grow in his interests, all which bode well for his future academic success.


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