For a final semester student in DU, the idea of something known as the ‘gap year’ tends to induce feelings of uncertainty and disenchantment, with negative inertia attached to it. To-be graduates are ready to join career fields they are disinterested in, or are willing to settle for something less rewarding, just to ensure that they do not
end up like xyz senior who took a year off after college.
Right before writing this editorial, it took a long time for me to even accept this as a meandering, last-resort option.
A lot of people like me, who are just beginning to realise the bitter truths that come with the final year of college, are
accepting the possibility of taking gap years too. For most students in India, it becomes an unwelcome eventuality, but unlike what we observe here, there are individuals who deliberately take a year off after completing their undergraduate degree.
The reasons have been various, from giving another shot to entrance exams to exploring one’s hobbies and interests and aligning them with their preferred career path. Contrary to the popular perception here, gap years or gap semesters are actual programmes offered by universities abroad, which students are often encouraged to pursue.
Their sabbatical is usually after the secondary school or undergraduate level, and tends to be for seven to eight months.
Year or semester-long sabbaticals aren’t as prevalent in India, and the reason behind this doesn’t require an explanation. India’s conservatism and the inflexibility of the course curriculum in Indian colleges, where something as dynamic as this can help students regain their composure, could never take flight. Colleges in the U.S and U.K offer numerous opportunities for students to intern, travel, and sign up for freelance work, owing to the program’s ability to be extended up to four years. Not only does this sojourn rejuvenate and offer new perspectives to preconceived notions, but it also presents plenty of time for a student to join part-time or additional courses, (offline or online) to gain value addition and branch out into a specific career of their choice.
Despite having umpteen pros, the elephant in the room needs to be addressed. While most post-graduate schools in India do not directly discriminate between regular freshers and the students who take gap years, people believe that their gap year somehow creeps up into personal interview rounds. In response to this concern, it is certainly problematic if a fresher takes a gap year for frivolous reasons. However, if you are able to substantiate and explain to the interviewers about your decision with proper logic and count down the knowledge addition through
add-on courses or internships at a startup or an NGO that you did, it can probably even place you far ahead of other candidates. These students are not as heavily penalised as before, and it’s becoming increasingly common because of the fewer jobs being generated in the economy. If your CV is impressive, your personality is convincing, and your skills match with the job/programme requirements, there’s little to stop you from grabbing that job/getting into that university. Berating yourself because of what comment that far-off relative made with regards to your decision would never help; we’re all headed in different directions at the end of the day.