Over the past few months, as I have been building Compass, our Gap Year program at Cho-Yeh, I have had a lot of conversations about the reasons why someone should consider taking a gap year. For starters, keep in mind that a gap-year is for anyone ages 18-21. So your gap-year might be directly out of high school, or it could be after you have a year or two of college accomplished but wish to take a pause on your college career while you broaden yourself through a gap-year program like Compass. But regardless of your season, here are 9 reasons (in no particular order) as to why you should consider doing this.
1. Higher Academic Achievement in College
Whether you are straight out of high school or already have a few years of college completed, students might worry that college admissions’ officials or professors will look down on them for taking a gap year. This isn’t true. Many schools report that gap year students have higher GPAs and are more involved on campus, so their attitudes toward gap years are far from unfavorable.
In fact, while it’s not as common in the U.S., taking a gap year is considered the norm in many countries all over the world, including the United Kingdom, Europe and Australia.
Today, many colleges and universities in the U.S. not only accept applicants who choose to take gap years, but also actively encourage enrolled students to consider deferring their enrollment one year in order to take a gap year. College counselors and academic advisors are seeing first hand the overwhelming evidence that students who ‘gap-year’ before (or during) college just perform better over students who don’t.
2. Clarity on Calling
More often than not, college students commit themselves to one area of study, realize it’s not for them, and then swap to a completely different major… often two or three times.
In fact in 2014, about one in three first-time students seeking bachelor’s degrees changed majors. One in ten changed majors at least two times. In addition, the study found that students in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) are about 6 percent more likely to change majors than non-STEM students.
By taking a gap year you’ll not only cut down on unnecessary coursework, tuition bills, and stress, but if you take this gap year before your junior year of college (or at least before you have to declare a major), you are more likely to know what it is you really want to do.
3. Experience Life Now!
So far this spring/summer I have visited over 100 churches/schools throughout East Texas, telling them about Compass. The #1 comment I have gotten from college counselors, academic advisors, pastors, and parents in response to promoting Compass is, “Why wasn’t this available when I was 18-21 years old?” The second comment is always, “Do you offer this for adults?”
These two responses from older adults offer an important perspective that I wish younger people had today. It is this: This is a unique time in your life. When else are you going to be 18-21 years old with no career, no mortgage payments, no significant other, no kids, and no real worries? Never. The answer is never! There is something wrong with our current culture that puts so much emphasis on accomplishing so much at such a young age. There is a rushing, frenetic (tyranny of the urgent!) quality to our lives that puts undue pressure to achieve major life goals and skills by the age of 21. However, if you go back and read the Scripture, you will see that even in the Jewish culture, a man didn’t take on a family until he was around 30 years old. Now the point isn’t to lull around, doing nothing. As we say on our website, Compass is not about taking a year off but taking a year up! But what better time to undertake an intense discipleship/leadership training program than when you are young and free and in the prime of your life?
4. You’ll learn early what is important in life
College can be ridiculously fun, but it’s easy to get so caught up in that bubble that you begin to believe your fraternity or friend group is the absolute center of the universe. As such, any small crisis might seem like the end of the world. However, if you’ve traveled the wider world in all its complexity and glory, you’ll understand there are bigger issues for humanity than a failed date night or a missed fraternity party.
Leadership, discipleship, and Biblical worldview training, (along with a host of other areas we will study and practice) give a perspective of the world and life that is simply missing in most young people. You will know what is truly important, and this understanding will set you apart from your peers and will open the door for future leadership positions.
5. New Places / New People
A Gap Year program like Compass, allows our students to integrate into a new society, to do life together with a new group of friends, and experience and adapt to new cultural norms. Gap Year programs that emphasizes interpersonal relationships, communication strategies, and opportunities to experience different cultural norms, will cultivate a flexibility that will have ripple effects for the rest of your life. Change can be hard, and people can be challenging, so learning to handle both change and people is critical for future success.
6. It’s a game-changer for your resume.
Everything that future employers look for on a resume is found in these two words: Gap Year. It indicates real world experience, different cultures, staff development, conflict resolution, volunteer and service projects, etc. You will be someone with more than “head knowledge.” You will have some practical, real world experience and skills.
7. Opportunity to learn New Rhythms.
Let me ask you a question. Have you really looked at people in their middle years (ages 40-50)? You probably haven’t. But I’m here to tell you that there is a huge problem with the modern American life. (Divorce, family turmoil, breakdowns, unhappy/unfulfilling careers, midlife crises, etc.,).
Christians in the West have a big problem. We have forgotten what it means to live lives that are genuinely meaningful. We are exhausted, and rather than examining why we are exhausted, we just remain in survival mode. We have forgotten many of the ancient rhythms that would help keep us centered and focused on what really matters.
Compass aims to examine and practice these ancient rhythms so that the next generation of Christian leaders live lives that are proactive and intentional rather than frazzled and dysfunctional. We will learn to embrace rhythms that grow us intentionally towards God and one another.
Warning: The rhythms that you establish now will determine what your life looks like in twenty years. So make sure they are the right ones.
8. Establish Lifelong Relationships
Living with 20 other people will offer you a unique perspective on life and will hugely enrich you. You have the possibility of developing lifelong friendships that will change the course of your life. Never underestimate the power of godly friendships that are established through intentional community by doing life together.
9. Above all, you’ll go deeper with God than you could ever imagine.
If you are willing to put in the time and the discipline, I promise you that you will grow deeper in your love and knowledge and obedience to God. God loves us and desires real relationship with us. At the end of everything, the only thing that really matters is to know God and to be known by Him. Every longing, every desire, every wish that we could ever have can only be realized in our relationship with Jesus Christ. No career, no relationship, no wealth or prestige can come close to the joy of knowing and serving our Lord and Savior!
(Note: Pray about joining our Compass Gap-Year. We have a few spots still available for the 2018/2019 year and scholarships are available. Also, if you want to just talk further about why you should consider a Gap Year, I would welcome the opportunity to process that conversation with you. Feel free to reach out to my email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)