Most animals instinctively break their fall to minimize injury. Countless articles with medical, scientific, and even psychological focus exist on the subject. A dictionary definition of the “break your fall” idiom is “to interrupt, prevent, or soften one’s fall, either physically or figuratively.” The concept is a good analogy for high school graduates this year to “break” the traditional approach to typical “Fall” semester activities. The similarity extends beyond the witty use of words.

Let me put this in the context of Worldly Experiences…

A lot has been written about the gaps in our education system and its overall limited relevance as preparation for the future manpower requirement. It is evident that looking at ourselves as “manpower” in itself is limiting; we certainly need to develop healthy, powerful and energized human bodies, but the future will value the “brainpower” you wield much more than your physical power. Being trained in school to follow instructions, understand and accept authority, and develop skills in competition, co-operation, and collaboration, was an efficient approach when career paths were well-defined. There was a known set of skills and competencies that were needed to succeed in most areas, and (most importantly) we were aware of the numbers of graduates needed to work certain markets. Courses, activities and assessments were designed to meet these needs, infrastructure was set up, processes, systems and metrics were defined, teachers and administrators/governors were trained, and it enabled a great run of security, growth, and overall prosperity. But that was last century!

This century we stare at a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) future. The fast pace of change has rendered our job role and skills prediction models, even 5 years into the future, ineffective. The regimented models of defined academic years and hourly engagement for students have been limiting, and we can see definitive signs of the impact. These range from huge global unemployment (exacerbated by the pandemic), reports of unfilled positions due to lack of needed talent, and severe imbalance of global economy in terms of financial, social, and regional divides. While the schooling system is being overhauled and newer models of learning are being introduced, high school grads need to look inward and take the necessary actions to be future-ready. It’s the only way to reap the benefits of the exciting (and unknown) opportunities that are going to unfold.

So take a gap year.

In the current situation, you – the future leaders – would do best to take a break this year. A gap year has become the conventional approach to pause the process and allow students to realign their efforts towards planning their own vision of the world. Traditionally, the gap year has been a bold luxury, and if you were courageous or privileged you could take a year and explore the world backpacking, taking up odd jobs, making new friends, and in the process you’d get a ringside view of the real world. However, this year, travel is much more tedious with all the checks and precautions, and could pose risks that outweigh the benefits. As we discover the brighter side of networking/working/learning/indulging-from-home, how about adding the idea of a “virtual gap year” into the mix?

Think of it as… exploring-from-home. Can we explore the world (and opportunities) more mindfully, purposefully, and scientifically – virtually? We think so.

Seriously consider the value of taking a gap year this fall. The college experience would be restricted this year, and that truth can only have negative effects on the costly education you’d receive. There are options today which help you discover the future of work, examine future-orientated skills, and experience the future of learning. Any person with a basic understanding of how the world is taking shape will tell you these are the critical skills moving forward. After building these skills, any college experience would be richer, and you’d discover added value that would grow with you.

For this “fall,” let’s not just look to “break your fall,” but take a giant leap into the future with added awareness, conviction, and preparedness .