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Taking a gap year could benefit you for the rest of your life

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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With the lure of exotic travel, the chance to start earning a proper salary or an excuse to finally break free from mum and dad, it's no surprise that gap years are a popular choice for students.

Here in the UK, over 5% of students deferred their university to take a gap year in 2015, while in the US, universities such as Harvard recommend students take a year out to "travel, pursue a special project or activity, work or spend time in another meaningful way".

And now there is good news for those who choose to take a gap year before heading off to university: you could be reaping the benefits for the rest of your life.

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In his new book, There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of TomorrowUniversity of Arizona professor and former editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jeffrey Sellingo, argues the case for taking a year out.

Describing a gap year as an invaluable experience, Sellingo stresses the importance of taking time out in order to let students assess how they can make the most of their experience at university, which will in turn have an effect on their later careers.

"We shouldn't rush this transition," he told The New York Times"We are rushing too many kids off to college who aren’t ready or don’t know why they’re there."

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To make the most of a gap year, Sellingo recommends taking part in "meaningful work experience, academic preparation for college, or travel that opens up the horizon to the rest of the world". He added that "students who delay college to work odd jobs for a while to try to ‘find themselves’ don’t do as well as everyone else when they get to college."

Sellingo also recommends thinking of a gap year as part of your life-long education.

"We still think of an education as this thing you get, at this one place, once in your life,” he said. “That’s not the way it works anymore.”

And it's not just students who benefit from taking time out: adults can be at an advantage if they take a grown-up gap year, too.

So whether you make up one of the 30% of gappers travelling independently across the globe (the Foreign Office brilliantly calls these people the 'Invincibles') or join a group trip, there are plenty of reasons for you to head off and explore.

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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Features Editor at Stylist

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