16 Mar A Technical Gap Year
It was the end of my junior year of high school. I had recently broken my 10-year streak as a homeschooler and attended a small private school that was just down the road from my home. Although I had enrolled as a junior because of my current age, I only had four classes left to complete my high school career.
Due to the collision of my completed homeschool courses and the completed junior classes taken at the private school, I had completed all the requirements to graduate. Most students would have been over-the-moon excited at this news, but I had mixed feelings. I had saved my senior year to search and apply for colleges. I had not even started to plan for college! Panic. Stress. Anxiety.
If you’ve been a part of the homeschool community for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve heard the term “gap year” before. A gap year is usually about a 12-month span of time between graduating high school and starting college courses or whatever awaits your student post-high school. Some choose to commit this time to mission work, while others take time to travel and refresh their hearts before jumping into their career training or university. Making time for a gap year has slowly become more popular since I was in high school because families and students are realizing how beneficial it is to “seize the day”, so to speak, and make time to explore yourself deeper; this usually leads to clarity on what to study in school as you find passions that might have been hidden in your heart and have now been brought into the light. I had not personally planned on a gap year post graduation; however, I believe God had other plans.
When I realized I would have a whole year to dedicate to something other than my senior year of high school, I explored this idea of a gap year. Being the planner and logical gal I am, I began to contemplate how best to use my time with the intention of starting college courses after a year’s time. After much thought and discussion, I decided to apply to a technical college and complete a technical degree during my gap year. This would allow me to gain a skill and obtain a state license that I could use as financial security while attending college in the years to follow. I also wanted to take advantage of the HOPE scholarship (now called “Move On When Ready” or MOWR) offered by the state of Georgia to students with a certain GPA, which essentially paid my tuition in full. A small leap of faith was needed to push me towards completing this technical degree but I am so grateful that I now have a licensed skill that I can always benefit from (regardless of the ever-changing and often times scary economy).
My cosmetology license has been a huge blessing for me as a single college student and now as a recent grad and newly married woman. I was able to work my way through obtaining a bachelors degree all the while having a secure income where I could often set my own hours at work. Many college students do not have this option, but I sure am glad I was blessed enough to have my technical degree.
As a side note, having a skill that can bless others is a valuable thing on the mission field. When I dedicated six months to mission work back in 2013, I took my shears and combs with me and volunteered to give haircuts wherever I was. I was able to bless my team members with free haircuts and also relate to some women in Vanuatu who had a hair service business. Let me tell you, these ladies could braid faster than anyone else I know and, while it can sometimes be awkward starting a conversation while evangelizing, our common ground as hairstylists made it seamless.
As my husband, Chad, is currently finishing his last year of college and we are in a transition state from college to careers for us both, I am still able to continue working and building experience as a cosmetologist with the peace of mind that I can take this skill with me wherever we feel led to go after graduation.
Of course, I am pushing towards a career that reflects my Biology degree (that I dedicated blood, sweat, and tears to finish…literally), but my technical degree will always be that extra financial security for my family. This is why I would strongly encourage any high school student that is going to take a gap year to consider their options as it relates to gaining a lifelong skill at a technical college.
I believe my time working as a cosmetologist has kept me sane while in school. If you’ve read my blog post about being both right brained and left brained, you know I am both logical and creative. Coming to work every day after spending hours in the lab at school gave my brain a break from the science and allowed myself to have a creative outlet, where I was able to relax one area of my mind and utilize the other. I plan to use my “gap year skill” for the rest of my life, regardless of my career path, because a learned skill is something that no one can ever take away from you.