Gap Year: Is it Right For You?

Maggie Grant, Will Hutensky, and Colin Delaney

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There is a misconception surrounding students paths after high school. As we walk through the halls of our senior year, we hear our friends and classmates discuss their college application process, where they are applying early, who is writing their letter of recommendation etc. However, there are post-secondary options besides going right to college; one of those options being a gap year.

A gap year can take a myriad of forms. Many students decide to use their year off for travel, community service, internships, and career exploration. Raleigh International (RI) is an organization that sends teens to some of the most remote places on earth in countries such as Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Tanzania, and Nepal. These trips can take anywhere from three to ten weeks, and along the way the students are provided tasks within these communities that will benefit the lives of the community members for years to come. In an article Teen Life wrote about the benefits of RI, they expressed, “On your community project you’ll help tackle poverty, whilst becoming immersed in a new and fascinating culture. You might be living in homestays with indigenous communities in Borneo. You could provide access to safe drinking water for a Tanzanian village.” It is clear that taking your gap year through an organization similar to this one will provide copious amounts of skills that the average college classroom is unequipped to teach their students. Throughout one of these journeys, a teen will learn priceless lessons centered around teamwork, communication, developing a good work ethic, and environmental conservation. “There are many reasons why students take a gap year” commented Mrs. Olsen, a school counselor at Hall. She believes that since “some students are not sure or mature yet and don’t know what they want to do,” taking a gap year is sometimes a beneficial option.

A gap year is a great alternative for students who don’t know what they want to major in. In an interview with Elizabeth Pillow, a senior at Hall High School, stated“It is really important for certain people to take a gap year.” Elizabeth is not taking a gap year as it would be hard since she wants to play sports in college.

College coaches don’t want their athletes to take a year off from sports. This can become a problem when students interested in playing at the collegiate level and they also are interested in a gap year. Maya Borden, a senior at Hall High School, said “I would love to take a gap year but I want to play sports in college and no coach that I have talked to want me to do this. They would support me through a post grad year at a private school but not a gap year.” An alternative for these students is to take what is called a postgraduate year. This is very common among student athletes who are not ready to attend college yet. The problem with this alternative is that the cost is still expensive.

Ellie Leonidas, who graduated last year, was one student who elected to take a gap year. Ellie considered the choice a “family decision,” adding that “she was not sure her counselor even knew.” Leonidas loves her gap year and encourages everybody to look into it, even if they believe they want to go to college.   

It is impossible to talk about college without examining the expenses involved. College is extremely expensive nowadays;  most schools require students to declare their major going into their Sophomore year of school. If you go in not knowing what you want to do you may have to take a 5th year of college. For most people, this is financially unrealistic.  A gap year is a great and cheaper alternative to attending a 5th year of college. Ellie Leonidas decided to take a gap year to help solidify what she wanted to major in next year. The program that she is attending explores the world through film. Ellie will be attending CU Boulder next year to major in film.

Maren Beverly, a senior at Hall, believes that college is not the best route after high school. Describing herself as anti-establishment, Maren maintains that Hall stresses the necessity for college above a reasonable amount, and argues that a gap year will teach her more than a college classroom. Beverly went on to say, “A role model of mine always says that the best teacher is experience, and I definitely stand by this ideology. I feel as though schooling has deprived me of free thinking.” Maren is very excited to travel next year, and trusts that the experience will improve her as a person.

There is clearly a range of opinions on gap years. The overwhelming population of high school students feel that they either want to get school over with or that a gap year is not for them. “It really depends on the student. Some people need to take a year off and others just need to go to college and get school done with as soon as they can,” said Tommy Sullivan, a rising Senior at Hall High School. Working with your counselor, in addition to your family, is an effective way to decide if a gap year is for you. If students are ambivalent about their post-secondary plans, Olsen suggests attending the Gap Year Fair at Conard as a helpful resource. This fair helps to give students insight on specific gap year programs. Many gap year programs available will be in attendance and it can help students find programs that they may not have known existed.

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Gap Year: Is it Right For You?