by Allie Jepsen
“What do I really want to do for the rest of my life?” This is a question I find myself constantly thinking about and almost being a junior in college, I expected myself to have this figured out by now. I went straight into college after my senior year in high school because it was expected of me from my family, teachers, and advisors. But was that really what was right for me? Already having $35,000 of college debt hanging over my head does not help my situation much either. Being in college, I feel rushed into trying to find out what I want to do with the rest of my life, while having my loans pile up semester by semester. Since I have been in college, my dad has been pushing me towards going to medical school, while my mom has me leaning towards education. Being stuck between trying to make my parents happy and myself happy at the same time, I never have had time to figure out what I really want. I never knew much about the gap year when I was a senior, but learning about it now makes me wish I had been educated on it earlier. I believe a gap year would have been able to give me more insight on what I wanted to do in my future, while saving me money.
A college gap year is a year between high school and college in which students take a break from their education to volunteer, intern, travel, or work. Although in the U.S. the gap year is not as popular as it is in other countries, the idea is growing. It is hard for some students to take a gap year because of scholarships they are able to receive their first year that cannot be postponed to their second year due to taking a gap year. A former dean at Princeton University agrees that students should be taking a gap year before their entrance into college. He believes that a freshman class should be over the age of 21 to be able to have the wisdom and experience to take advantage of the college opportunities (Bull par. 5). All U.S. colleges should accept student scholarship deferrals for a gap year because it gives students experience, gives them positive outlook on college and themselves, and saves money for the student.
When I was in high school, I relied on my parents to do a lot for me so coming right into college I was lost having my parents 70 miles away. During some time off of school, students are able to experience real life situations whether it is at their job, internships, or travels. “During time off, students can gain relevant work experience and new skills” (Ahlgren 64). Work experience and the discovery of new skills are huge for students who are not quite sure what they want to go to college for. A student may take a year off and discover what they wanted to pursue is not them, and they find out they have a skill in a job they were never aware about. Personally, I believe students who are able to gain more involvement in the real world are able to get a sense of the job careers they could find themselves in. Lucy Terrell, a student from Massachusetts took a break from school because she wanted to go explore the world. After her travels, she now pursues a career in international public health; this is a job she had never considered before she decided to take her gap year (Algren 62). This is a good example of how taking a break from school can help the student focus on what they want, and even be able to change the student’s direction in life. Not only is the gap year able to help student’s involvement, it is also able to widen student’s views on college and themselves.
By taking a gap year it is an immense benefit on the student’s understanding on themselves, and also a better awareness on their college decisions. Olivia Ragni from Arkadelphia, Arkansas missed the deadline to get her spot at Rice University, so she decided to take a gap year volunteering in a hospital in India. Ragni describes her experience as, “I gained confidence and independence, it was the best experience of my life” (qtd. in Gregory par. 8). While in school, students do not find much time to be able to think about much of anything other than school. However, with a student taking some time off they are able to discover more about themselves, and gain a bigger perspective on the world around them that students would normally look right past. This is able to allow the students to realize what they truly want to accomplish when going to college. Another student, Lucy Terrell, states, “[During the gap year] I put my life in perspective. I cam to college much more focused than I would have otherwise” (qtd. in Ahlgren 66). Most students go to college because it is what they are supposed to do according to their parents, and advisors. However, most college freshman have no idea what they want to do with their lives. By taking a break these students are able to discover what they truly would love doing for their careers. Some people may still argue that gap years are not a good idea for students because they think the student may never go back to school. However, statistics for the gap year are able to prove those assumptions wrong. Ninety percent of students who take the gap year return to college that next year. As they return to college, they are much more mature about themselves and the world than they would have been before. By taking time off of college, students are also able to save up money.
With most college freshmen being only 18 years old, they are not able to pay for their college tuition. Students have to contemplate the colleges they can and cannot afford, scholarship money they could receive, and the amount their loans will be by the time they graduate. By taking a year off of school, students are able to work a full time job to be able to make some extra cash for their education. Even if a student decides to travel over their gap year, they could always take on a part time job to make some extra cash on the side. There are some programs that support the college gap year that will pay students money in exchange for their volunteer work they complete. One program, the federal AmeriCorp offers 75,000 Americans each year an opportunity to volunteer with nonprofit organizations. After a 10-month commitment, the student will receive $4,425 for their college education (O’Shaughnessy par. 5). These programs are great for students to be able to get more involved in their community while going a good deed, and also earning money for college. For students who want to take a gap year to save up money, one of these programs would be a great idea.
While there are not many American students taking a gap year today, the trend is continuing to become more and more popular with colleges. This may be because some colleges still do not accept a student’s scholarship deferral for a gap year. A solution to this would be having all United States colleges allow the eligibility for a student to be able to receive their scholarships after a gap year. Colleges would be able to see the positives that come from allowing the student to take a year off school. A successful gap year may take a great deal of planning, but the end results are well worth it: experience in the real world, positive outlooks on the student and their college decisions, and students are able to save money. Instead of going into college confused with burdening loans, why not take a break from school to be able to find the real you in the real world?
Ahlgren, Ingrid. “Taking a Gap Year.” Foreign Service Journal (2006): 26-91. Schools Supplement. Schools Supplement, 14 June 2006. Web. 14 Feb. 2014.
Bull, Holly. “The Possibilities Of The Gap Year.” Chronicle Of Higher Education 52.44(2006): 77. Academic Search Complete. Web. 7 Feb. 2014.
Gregory, Sean. “Time Out: Gauging the Value of a Gap Year Before College.” Time. Time, Inc., 21 Sept. 2010. Web. 09 Feb. 2014.
O’Shaughnessy, Lynn. “8 Things to Know About a Gap Year.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 20 July 2010. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
Torpey, Elka M. “Gap Year: Time Off, with a Plan.” Occupational Outlook Quarterly. 53.3 (2009): 26-33. Print.