Column: The 6 Benefits on Taking Time Away From School

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By Brian Angus | bangus@radford.edu

After graduating from high school in 2017, I decided to take a year off from school, which is commonly called a gap year.

I rarely enjoyed high school. Most of my time in class was spent daydreaming about what life would be like after graduation. I dreamed about being free, having no restrictions or responsibilities.

Those desires manifested themselves into the idea of a road trip across the country.

I worked through the summer, then set out in September. For months, I traveled and visited almost every region of the country. Along the way, I met all types of people, explored different cities, and camped in many national parks. It was by far the greatest experience of my life.

However, I believe time away from school can be beneficial for anyone and the benefits that I list can be gained in many ways, not just from taking a road trip.

Becoming a More Motivated Student

For the first couple of months, I enjoyed my lack of responsibility, but I soon realized without responsibilities I felt no purpose. Having time away from work explained to me why we work.

I no longer sigh when assigned a project like I would in high school. Now, I feel motivated to accomplish tasks because I realized achievement is what brings me that sense of purpose.

Taking time away from school can also help you realize the value society puts on people with an education. Getting a job that I wanted seemed like a very arduous task without the help of a college education.

Having Time to Think and Explore Interests

After high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue. Taking time to think really helped me figure it all out.

College can be a good place to figure out what you want to do, but it is a very expensive place to do so. To me, the smarter option would be to know what you want to pursue and use college as a tool to get you there.I was free throughout most of the days to explore whatever interested me. For a while, I was interested in psychology, so I read books written by psychologists. Another time I was interested in bikes, so I bought a bike and learned how to fix it up.

I went through a lot of phases during the year, but I noticed my interests always came back to cameras and writing. Now I study media and journalism and feel very certain that it is the career path for me.

College can be a good place to figure out what you want to do, but it is a very expensive place to do so. To me, the smarter option would be to know what you want to pursue and use college as a tool to get you there.

Knowing what you want to do before studying at college can provide you with more motivation to perform well in college too. It’s much easier to achieve a goal when the goal is clear and concise.

Making Friends with Wiser People

From meeting a family who lived in a mansion in LA to meeting a man who lived on the side of a mountain with no car in the middle of nowhere, I was able to witness many walks of life.All my friends were in college during my time away, so I was forced to meet new people. Since everyone my age was in school, I ended making friends with people older than me. Usually with people who already had jobs.

I learned of their stories about how they got their jobs, and most of the time, whether I wanted it or not, they were more than happy to give me advice on what I should do with my life.

Meeting new people also opened my eyes to all the different ways you can live. From meeting a family who lived in a mansion in LA to meeting a man who lived on the side of a mountain with no car in the middle of nowhere, I was able to witness many walks of life.

The best part about making these connections is I still have them, which may come in handy somewhere down the road. Connections can be built in college very easily, but the kind of people you can build connections with may be limited. This is because there are many more people out in the real world than there is in a college environment.

Gaining Work Experience

For the latter half of my year off, I worked at a rock climbing gym. The work wasn’t anything career oriented, but I enjoyed it and it gave me experience in working with customers and co-workers.

By taking time away from school, you could get a job or internship that would help you gain experience in the field you are pursuing. Working a job in a field that you are interested in can also help you decide if you really do want to study that field.

Volunteering is another way you could gain work experience and explore interests.

Learning Independence

On my road trip, I had to take care of myself completely. Mom wasn’t around to make food anymore, so I cooked most of my food on a little backpacking stove. I also learned how to budget my money, make small repairs to my car, and keep things organized.

These are pretty simple things, but by doing them on your own, it gives you a sense that you are prepared to live in this world. Taking time away from school is a perfect way to experience these responsibilities without the onlooking of an authority figure, especially at this age when you still have your parents as a backup.

You Can Have an Amazing Experience

I am by no means saying we shouldn’t go to college, or that everyone should take time away. If you know why you’re here, you should stay here. However, I have friends who enter college simply because their peers and family have pushed them to go to college. It leaves them confused, unmotivated, and in debt.Lastly, you could have a ton of fun!

Taking a cross-country road trip is the experience I wanted to have, but your experience could be anything from thinking and sitting at home to traveling across the world.

There is no better time to do something adventurous than in your college-age years. Most likely you don’t have a job that you can’t leave, you don’t have kids and a family to take care of, and you are nearing the prime of your fitness.

I am by no means saying we shouldn’t go to college, or that everyone should take time away. If you know why you’re here, you should stay here. However, I have friends who enter college simply because their peers and family have pushed them to go to college. It leaves them confused, unmotivated, and in debt.

That’s really who I’m writing this article for, those who may feel lost at school. I believe some things you have to figure out on your own, especially when it comes to determining your future. I have found that taking time away from school can help you do that.

Also, I don’t believe you necessarily have to drop out to take time away from school. You can set aside an hour or two each day to pursue an interest. Just make sure you have time spent away from schoolwork and people who may influence your decision making.

These were the benefits that I personally gained from my time away from school. I hope this article provided some guidance, but in the end, you have followed your gut and make your path.

Photo Credit: (Ashley Knedler on Unsplash)