Four Reasons You Should Take A Gap Year Before College Like Malia Obama

by John Haltiwanger

On Sunday, the White House announced Malia Obama will be attending Harvard University, The New York Times reports.

But, she won't be going until 2017, opting to take a gap year before she begins studying at the prestigious Ivy League institution.

Gap years, in which students take some time to travel or work between senior year and college, are a fairly common tradition in Europe. But, the concept hasn't really caught on in the United States quite yet, as many are likely worried taking a break would put them at a disadvantage.

The truth is, however, there are a number of huge benefits to taking a gap year, and Harvard actually encourages it. In fact, there's evidence students who take gap years end up performing better than their peers.

There's nothing wrong with going straight off to college, but perhaps it's time for more American students to consider the gap year option.

Here are four reasons you should think about taking a gap year like Malia Obama.

1. It will give you time to travel the world.

Many people have dreams of traversing the globe at some point in their lives. But, traveling gets harder and harder to do as you get older.

Studying abroad is a fantastic option while you're in college, but there's nothing quite like traveling on your own terms, and that's exactly what a gap year allows for.

Travel helps people become more independent, adaptable and open-minded. All of these are indispensable qualities that prove helpful in all walks of life, but especially college.

To top it all off, you might end up with some amazing friends scattered throughout the world. It's always good to have a wide network.

2. It will help you find what you're passionate about.

If you take a gap year, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in a special project, volunteer or work.

Doing these types of things is invaluable in terms of finding what makes you tick.

Many people enter college without a clue of what they're passionate about or what they want to major in, but a gap year can help them gain perspective on all of this.

3. It will look really good on your resume.

If you use your time wisely, a gap year can look really good on your resume.

For example, if you spend a year in another country and get a job there, it signifies to employers you have international experience, work well with different cultures and are flexible.

These are attractive qualities and invaluable skills in any field.

4. You will understand yourself far better.

College is a bit of a fantasy world.

From an academic standpoint, it definitely has the capacity to teach you a lot (if you go to class, that is). But, in terms of learning the life skills and knowledge of the real world, college isn't exactly the best environment.

It's a fairly insulated existence in which you're constantly surrounded by people of similar ages and mind-sets. This is precisely why many emerge from college feeling completely lost.

But, a gap year can better prepare you for not only the challenges of being out of your parents' house for the first time, but what awaits after graduation.

Simply put, a gap year is a tremendous opportunity to find yourself and mature.

So, go have some adventures, get some work experience and do something you'll talk about for the rest of your life.

It might feel like you need to rush off to college, but learning isn't a race, it's a lifelong endeavor.

Citations: Malia Obama to Attend Harvard, but Not Until 2017 (The New York Times)