WHY DO STUDENTS TAKE A GAP YEAR AFTER HIGH SCHOOL?

Pablo Balza |

Lost or confused about the decisions about post-secondary?  

You’re not alone. Many students stress about whether they will be attending post-secondary or not.

 Feeling worried about your future is normal. It means you care to achieve your dreams, and you hope to become successful. Everybody goes through that point in their lives of figuring out what they want to do, and also finding the financial means to do so.

In many parts of the world,  including Sweden, Norway and Australia, it is quite common for students to take a gap year. In those countries there’s more opportunities for students to explore their goals and passions while taking a year off.  Some leave to explore foreign countries and chase new opportunities.

 Here at home, programs such as mygapyear or CanGap provide students with resources and programming during  a gap year. 

A report by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, released in 2017, says 24 per cent of Canadian students going to post secondary took one year off.

Maureen Carnegie, a student wellness and accessibility counsellor at Humber College, provides guidance and help for students to succeed in their post-secondary careers. Throughout her career, Carnegie has guided many students on their paths for success, and has also helped many students succeed in their academic progress and achieve their required grade-point average.

As a counsellor, she understands that some students may take a gap year as post-secondary education is expensive. “Ultimately it depends on the individual and reasons for taking their gap year. Generally speaking, a gap year can be useful and meaningful for a person who is just finishing high school,” Carnegie says. 

Everybody has different timing. Just because many 18 to 20 year olds are choosing post-secondary doesn’t mean you have to follow their pace. 

Joshua Tammaro spends his free time in the Summer of 2019 fishing at his cottage
[Photo provided by Tammaro]

Joshua Tammaro, a Grade 12 student, attends Tommy Douglas Secondary School in Woodbridge, Ont.

He was about to take the gap year but changed his mind.

Tammaro applied to the following universities and programs.

University of Toronto Scarborough Campus for the Paramedics program, University of Toronto St. George Campus for Kinesiology and York University Keele Campus for Kinesiology and Health Science program where he got accepted.

Tammaro agrees that everyone has their own reasons for taking a gap year, but he doesn’t believe it’s a good idea because he knows people who took a year off, and didn’t end up applying to post-secondary. 

He has a few friends going for a gap year, but he believes just having a high school diploma and a minimum wage job won’t lead to a successful life.

“I just think taking a gap year is for lazy people. Well, one of my friends was thinking of taking a gap year, but I know his personality and if he takes a gap year, he’s just going to be stuck with a high school diploma while working a minimum wage job,” Tammaro says.

Tammaro understands people who take a gap year due to financial circumstances as his own family household is not financially stable.

He encourages those who do take a gap year due to financial issues to work hard during that year to accomplish the goals you may have set.

Tammaro is applying for the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) as soon as he gets accepted to college.

He also applied to scholarships to help towards his education.

“My last thought ever was getting a loan to pay for my program, but I’m going to chase my goals no matter what,”Tammaro says. 

Nixy Carrillo is currently enrolled in the nursing program at George Brown which is a two-year program.

After graduating from high school, Carrillo decided to take a gap year due to not having the money for the program.

“In my year off, basically, I got tired of life. I wanted to get my life together and I felt I was under so much pressure but at the same time I worked a lot and went on a lot of trips,” Carrillo says. 

 She believes if students have to take a gap year for financial reasons then go for it, get a job during that year to save for post-secondary.

But if the student can afford post-secondary and knows what program they want to study, they should enroll right away.

Nixy Carrillo enjoys taking trips to the downtown core of Toronto
[Photo provided by Carrillo]

During Carrillo’s gap year, she obtained jobs at McDonald’s and Journeys.

“I decided to get two jobs, to keep myself busy and to save as much as I can towards my post-secondary funds,” Carrillo says. 

She was able to save up a substantial amount of money, and applied to Seneca, Humber and George Brown College; she got accepted to all of them, but settled on George Brown. 

Carrillo, like many other students, applied for OSAP in order to pursue her dreams. At first, she didn’t want to apply for the loan, worrying about not being able to pay it back, but OSAP doesn’t require any payments until six-months after graduation.

Nixy Carrillo hanging out at the Toronto City Hall Plaza.
[Photo provided by Carrillo]

Carnegie also says post-secondary education doesn’t make you any better or different than anyone.

If you set goals and follow them until they are completed, your hard work will turn into success.

Carnegie took a couple years off after she graduated from high school to get two jobs in order to afford her program.

Later on, she realized she was also preparing herself mentally to be ready for her courses and the academic level. 

“For me taking a few years off really helped me prepare. Throughout my years in university, I had a higher grade-point average. I was always keeping myself up to date and asking my teachers for help,” Carnegie says. 

Don’t stress if you can’t decide whether you will take a gap year.

Just because some people go to college before you doesn’t mean you will be behind or that you’re less likely to be successful.

They’re just at a different point in their life than you. 

There are people who enroll in post-secondary during their early 20s, and people who enroll while in their late 20s, or even 50s.

It is never too late to get the education you want in order to have the job you have always dreamed of.

Everything happens for a reason at the right time.

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