Making a decision about what you want to do with the rest of your life when you’re barely 18 is a lot to ask of a person. Some students are confident that entering college is the right choice for them, and that’s great! But what about kids who are puzzled about their next steps or a possible career? All the choices can be overwhelming. That’s why increasingly, more and more students are choosing to take an intentional pause between high school and college in the form of a gap experience.
This break can have far-reaching effects that are overwhelmingly positive. Studies show that 90% of students who took a gap year returned to college within a year. According to one study done on gap programs, students who’ve taken a gap year or semester report a rate high job satisfaction, which the team uncovered may be related to a “less-selfish approach to working with people and careers.” Additionally, students reported back post-gap program that they felt they had grown immensely during their experience. 98% said their time had helped them develop as a person, 96% found it increased their self-confidence, and 93% indicated that it had increased their communication skills.
So, if you’re still considering whether or not a gap program is the right fit for you or a loved one, here’s a few more reasons to consider one.
1. Learn More About Yourself
Taking a break between such an enormous transition allows you to pause, reflect and really get to know yourself outside of the pressures of high school and other external forces. Most of all, a gap semester allows you the space and time you need to look inside yourself and learn more about who you really are – and how God wants to use you. Now that’s invaluable.
2. Earn College Credits
While this isn’t true of all gap semesters, years or programs, many offer students college credit as a way to help keep those who decide college is right for them on track with their peers academically (more or less). The benefit of this is twofold: first, gap programs like Lancaster Bible College’s gap semester are not void of any academics, quelling concerns of parents who envision their teens simply lounging on the beach somewhere exotic; second, students can begin to test the waters of what interests them academically and what doesn’t. The resulting self-discovery can help them to hone in on an area of study and save valuable time and money instead of changing majors – which could mean less debt.
3. Travel and Explore
Many Christian gap programs and gap years place a high emphasis on travel as an element of learning. There is something to be said for the value of such an experience: students get a chance to demonstrate independence, take in new cultures, learn to navigate public transportation and so much more. It’s an empowering experience for a young person.
4. Save Money
Say what? Save money? That’s right. Many gap programs are anywhere from 1/3 to 2/3 the cost of traditional college semester – and college looks favorably upon students who’ve opted to participate in gap program or non-traditional post-high school experience. It’s a great resume builder. For example, Lancaster Bible College offers students significant scholarships for participating in programs like Word of Life Bible Institute, New Tribes Bible Institute, our own gap semester and more.
5. Get Real-World Experience in a Field of Interest
If you’re not sure what you want to do in the next phase of life, taking a gap semester can help. Depending on the structure of the Christian gap program, you could do anything from taking Bible classes, serving on missions trips to learning a craft like photography. Gap programs give you space, and even more crucially, time to explore your interests and discover your gifts.
6. Discover How God’s Gifted You & Where He’s Calling You
One of the most important aspects of a Christian gap year and LBC’s own gap semester is this: you learn more about who God created you to be. Living, learning and working alongside fellow Christians provides an additional opportunity to see your gifts and talents in a new light.
7. Give Back by Serving
Many gap year programs center around service, whether spiritual or physical. If you’ve been looking for a way to share God’s love, a gap program can be a great option. Our gap semester ends with a two-week service trip where students get the chance to put their faith into action.
8. Grow in Community
Students in gap semesters often foster deep and meaningful friendships with those in the program – and there’s nothing like the fellowship of other Christians, working and learning in service.
Have you taken a gap year or semester? What would you add to this list? Drop us a comment below and chime in!