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Packed car - ready to explore the benefits of a gap year.

As high school seniors ponder a vast array of options for the future, taking a gap year has become increasingly popular. But what exactly is a gap year, and what can students gain from it? In a recent live stream, Christina Oldfather with Rabble Mill Workforce Development shared more about this intriguing option.

What is a Gap Year?

A gap year is a break from formal education to explore personal and professional interests. Christina defines it as “a break between high school and college to figure out what you want to do, get some experiences, and take a little bit of time before you take that next step into college.” A gap year is often misunderstood, as many envision it as an unstructured time for backpacking across Europe. The reality, however, can be much more structured and beneficial to students.

Common Misconceptions

There are several misconceptions about taking a gap year. Some people believe it’s a luxury only affordable for the wealthy. Others think that students who delay going to college will never enroll. Christina believes these views are outdated. In reality, a gap year is a time for all students to do a deep dive into what interests them most, whether it’s travel, work, or study. It’s not about leisure; it’s about strategic exploration and growth.

Why Take a Gap Year?

Students opt for a gap year for many reasons. Many aren’t ready for the traditional path to college. Others are more interested in starting their own businesses or exploring vocational training. Christina said the cost of college can be a significant factor—taking a huge bet on college without a clear goal can be daunting financially and personally.

One compelling reason to consider a gap year is the opportunity to mature and gain real-world experience. Christina said it can include “getting a chance to live out on your own, maybe have a job, and understand what it means to have the real world smack you in the face a bit.”

Benefits of Taking a Gap Year

The benefits of a gap year extend beyond having new experiences. According to Christina, students often gain:

  • Exploration and Exposure: Students get to see what’s out there, helping them make more informed decisions about their futures.
  • Skill Development: Many gap year programs, like Rabble Mill’s, offer structured ways to develop professional skills and obtain certifications.
  • Networking: Building a professional network during a gap year can be invaluable, providing insights and opportunities that are not typically available to those who go straight to college.

Rabble Mill’s Gap Year Program

Rabble Mill’s Gap Year Program is a career and skill accelerator for 18 to 24-year-olds. This eight-month course helps students explore career paths and build skills and ends with a paid internship. This structured approach provides a clear framework for students to explore and develop their interests.

Logistics and Planning

Christina says to consider logistics like budget, housing, and travel when planning a gap year. For many students, this is their first time managing these responsibilities. She emphasized the importance of students educating themselves on insurance, setting up bank accounts, and living within a budget.

For those concerned about college, many gap year students find they are better prepared when they finally enroll. They report having clearer goals and more focus, which leads to better academic performance.

Success Stories and Outcomes

Christina shared several success stories from Rabble Mill’s Gap Year Program. One student redirected their career path entirely, using their gap year to confirm their interest in a particular study area and securing a scholarship. Another transformed their passion for art into a career as a tattoo artist, while others launched into the fashion industry and started their own businesses.

These stories illustrate how a gap year can impact students’ pursuit of continuing education and careers.

Getting Involved and Making It Work

For those interested in a gap year program like Rabble Mill’s, Christina advises applying through their website and exploring scholarship opportunities to cover costs. The program takes around 35 students per cohort, ensuring personalized mentoring and support.

Final Thoughts

A gap year can be a transformative experience, allowing students to explore, grow, and make informed decisions about the future. It’s a unique opportunity to step back, reflect, and plan for a successful and fulfilling future, whether through structured programs like Rabble Mill’s or individual exploration.

If you’re considering a gap year, remember it’s about more than taking a break—it’s about making strategic choices for your future. As you navigate these choices, remember that the experiences and skills you gain during this time can profoundly impact your academic and professional trajectory.

By Jeannine Phelan