The term “gap year” has always connoted something bittersweet in the context of Indian schooling. It’s perfectly understandable to be paralysed by uncertainty and to feel hurt when you watch your peers enjoying college life. However, taking a gap year can also be thought of as “life-changing” in a good sense.
So, the crucial query becomes: Are they actually worthwhile?
The fifteen years of schooling are nonstop, from the daily coaching sessions to the long hours spent studying for college admission tests. Every student has been accompanied by weekly in-class assessments, assignments, home assignments, summer projects, and presentations since the young third grade. We are unaware of the burnout boiling behind all of this work, extracurricular activities, submissions, and deadlines. With the impending idea of the “right degree and the right college,” high school students face more difficult hurdles as they compete for the “perfect” score on entrance examinations, hunting for the “perfect” private coaching facility. The coaching centre then adds to the already enormous mountain of homework, exams, projects, and improbable demands.
Faced with the rapid pace of growing up and the steadily building burnout, most students lose touch with themselves and fall into the never-ending cycle of living up to other people’s expectations. Even professionals in their thirties and forties, such as doctors, lawyers, academics, businesspeople, and others, frequently exhibit the appearance of being disoriented ex-cons of some perplexing lifelong boot-camp. Some even claim that they chose their profession out of obligation to others or that they just happened to drift into it without stopping to consider if they truly enjoyed their employment. They frequently claim to have completely lost their youth because they never lived in the moment and were constantly focused on some vague future objective.
Hence, the question arises: is a gap year a solution to all of these problems?
Most likely, yeah. In order to ponder, “recreate” themselves without the constant pressure to succeed as an influence, and build up strength for the upcoming college years, students need plenty of free time. Long lectures, demanding curricula, deadlines, presentations, research papers, resumes, internships, and a seemingly never-ending struggle to achieve a balance between academics and career define a new period of our educational endeavours in college (not to mention cramping in campus societies as well). A gap year gives a student this important amount of time to dedicate to themselves and carefully plan their future studies.
However, it is crucial to ask: how can one make a gap year useful?
Students have plenty of opportunities during a gap year to work, study, and travel. While most students lack the resources to travel or engage in such exotic pursuits, spending more time reading, keeping up with old friends, participating in small-scale internships, and developing new interests can also be beneficial. However, for both students and their parents, taking time off can be a terrifying concept. Students frequently wish to follow their companions down old and secure roads. Parents are concerned that their children will get distracted from college and may never join. Both worry that taking a break could cause pupils to “fall behind” or permanently lose their study skills. Yet, the advantages of a gap year typically outweigh the hazards, so there is rarely a need for concern. Many students believe that their gap years were a “life-altering” experience whose entire value will never be known and which will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Many students arrive at college with fresh ideas for their academic goals, extracurricular interests, the intangibles they intended to acquire there, and the career options they saw during their gap year.
Is then a year-long breather worth it after all?
Although the emphasis here has been on measures to reduce stress for today’s high-achieving generation, it is important to emphasise that the majority of kids are really prospering under pressure. The foundation of extraordinary accomplishments is never imitating the successes of others. More often than not, well-intentioned but mistaken parents strive to shape their kids into the kind of success they value, and since kids are so easily moulded, they readily accept the programme before they are old enough to make such decisions for themselves. The paradox is that the only way to truly succeed is to fully express who you are, to be successful in what you do, and to do it on your terms. Thus, the demands put on many kids unintentionally delay their ability to discover who they are and flourish on their own terms. We should all be able to admire Amartya Sen’s accomplishments in economics while also making our own, more modest strides in our respective disciplines and methods. Redefining success as the accomplishment of the student’s own goals, including those that are yet to be found, benefits both parents and kids. Burn-out is an inevitable result of trying to live up to alien goals. Time-out can promote discovery of one’s own passions.
Growing up today is a vastly different experience. While some families and students are suffering as a result of the hectic pace, others are coping but are not as happy with their life as they would like to be. Even the “happy warriors” of today’s ultra-competitive landscape, who are doing very well, run the risk of becoming less human as they struggle to meet what may be growingly unattainable demands.
The unfortunate truth still is that the world has traditionally characterised success as being characterised by high test scores, medal winners, and exam top scorers. However, it is always important to remember that graduation is not a race and life doesn’t always have to be competitive.
It’s okay to occasionally stand back, take a deep breath, look around, and live a little, just for you and your tiny being.
Trust me, it all ends up well 🙂
Featured Image Credits: Fegans (Google Images)