Opinion: A gap year gives students deeper world perspectives


With the constant looming question of “What do you want to be in the future?” teenagers are facing more pressure than ever to find a major or profession to settle down with as they apply to colleges. In the month of January, many seniors are rushing to finish their college applications without any true idea of what career they wish to pursue in the future. Taking a gap year could be a solution to the uncertainty faced by these teenagers.

A gap year means taking a year off from education, usually after graduating high school and before entering college. During a gap year, students can travel, intern or volunteer as they use this break to discover and define their future plans.

Many teens who are deeply unsure and still enroll in a university can find themselves constantly changing majors, resulting in a longer, more expensive road to higher educational achievement. Although teens have the opportunity to major in general studies in order to figure out their strengths and interests, discovering your personality and what you should pursue is inevitable with real life experiences. Having hands-on experience, traveling the world and serving others before yourself is the most effective way to find your strengths, interests and future career.

After four years of being in school every week for seven hours of the day only to be followed by extracurricular activities, homework and a social life, it can be hard for teens to step out of this regimented lifestyle and form definitive plans for after high school. Evidently, there is so much of the world teens have not been exposed to. A gap year can give teens the opportunity to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the world around them and become better prepared college-bound students.

Experiences resulting from a gap year can aid in the development of useful skills, such as organization, self-sufficiency and social skills, which can only serve to benefit students in preparing for university. Moreover, it can make a college applicant stand out amongst the enormous amount of other applicants. Many colleges report that students who have taken a gap year are more involved on campus and maintain higher GPAs, according to Global Citizen Year.

Harvard University states that it “encourages admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work or spend time in another meaningful way—provided they do not enroll in a degree-granting program at another college.” Furthermore, a gap year has been encouraged by many other prestigious universities such as Princeton, Tufts and James Madison University. Some colleges even offer gap year programs of their own to encourage students to become more well-rounded.

In this day and age, it’s no surprise that many gap year programs are provided online. These programs are designed to help give guidance and structure more productive breaks as sometimes a break from education can to lead to a very unproductive year of doing nothing. Though enrollment in a gap year program can be costly, many of these programs offer financial aid, scholarships or grants to participants.

Students who are considering taking a gap year are likely to face discouragement from others, such as counselors or family members, due to the fear that students might not pursue higher education after taking a gap year. However, research found that “ninety-percent of students who took a gap year had returned to college within a year,” according to Wall Street Journal.

After high school, whatever path a person decides is ultimately and entirely up to that individual. But, if facing constant doubt regarding college, perhaps taking a gap year might be the best choice.

This photo was taken at Redlands East Valley High School Career Center. The Career Center offers guidance toward future career options. (MIRIAM YORDANOS/ Ethic Photo)

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