In a world that constantly changes, social and educational norms evolve everyday. A gap year is a year between leaving school and starting college or university that is usually spent traveling or working. The stigma against taking a gap year diminished significantly over the past 10 years as more young people want to take part in the year off.

Interest in taking a gap year has doubled in the past 10 years, with a 294 percent increase in attendance of gap year interest fairs, according to the American Gap Association.

With its rising popularity, students should consider a gap year’s social, cultural and academic benefits. Recently graduated high school seniors should take a gap year because it gives them time for self growth, helps them appreciate other cultures and it gives them an academic advantage when they return.

A gap year provides students a year where they can take time off to work or pursue their passions. Programs like Rotary Long-Term Youth Exchange award students an opportunity to spend their year traveling the world, and in-turn becoming a better global citizen. The long-term exchange program sends students to a foreign country with a different language than their own, so students are forced to become fluent to live there for a year. Rotary provides students with the ability to travel throughout Europe through the long-term exchange, to learn both the history of their host countries and the surrounding neighbors.

After graduation, students question their life plans or goals when thinking about life at an university. Factors such as leaving high school, moving out of one’s house and  starting to pay bills on one’s own can become overwhelming and emotionally straining on an individual.

According to Business Insider, 84 percent of respondents of a 2015 survey said that they took a gap year to take a break from academics. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said that taking a gap year helped them find their purpose in life. Not following a pre-set plan for life, like attending a university immediately after high school, allows students to define what makes them happy and what really interests them. It creates a increased ownership of one’s life and their own choices.

According to the American Gap Association, a gap year helped 90 percent of people develop a greater understanding and respect towards other cultures and customs and instilled a greater appreciation of human rights across the globe in 84 percent of people. Traveling to a new country grants students the freedom to step outside their comfort zones.

When working and living in a new environment with new languages, currency and religion, one will develop a better understanding of the world around themselves and how to adapt to new or challenging situations.

After a prolonged absence from an educational environment for a year, people have doubts about how students will perform when they return. Though they take a break,  “The Characteristics of Gap-Year Students and Their Tertiary Academic Outcomes” study, by researchers Elisa Birch and Paul Miller found who students that took a one-year break between high school and university allowed for motivation for an interest in study to be renewed.

90 percent of students were likely to return to school within a year, and 73 percent of survey respondents said a gap year increased their readiness for college, according to Business Insider. A study at Sydney University of more than 900 first-year students showed that taking a year off translated to an improved performance in the first semesters at university. If a student does a foreign exchange gap year, the language skills they learn can lead to an advantage in college studies.

When deciding whether to pursue an educational career immediately after college or take a gap year, students should identify the benefits of giving themselves a break before going to study at a university. Gap years provide beneficial services to students, allowing them a chance to find themselves, giving them a larger world view and developing an educational advantage when they return to school.

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