Taking a Year Off

The idea of recent high school graduates putting off college for a year may seem ludicrous and impulsive, but this European tradition is finally catching on in America. Seniors may find it daunting to continue on with their educational plans after recently finishing thirteen years of hard work, with usually another two to eight on the way. A gap year gives exhausted students the opportunity to relax, help others, and possibly learn to be self-sufficient, which is very important in college.

Those who oppose gap years claim that students who take a gap year are less likely to want to return to college after their adventure. They assert that students may see how much fun the “real world” is after their adventure, and may not want to return to the pressures of college life. Though it may seem like taking a “year off” would make students less focused on academic work, findings from MSNBC.com actually show the opposite. The majority of research shows that students who take a gap year actually come back more focused, as opposed to jumping straight into college. Many teens become more self-sufficient after being on their own.

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Students come back with world experience that can greatly help their college studies. This gap year time off should not be just relaxation time, though. A gap year presents students a great opportunity to travel the world and volunteer. Gapyear.com presents possible “gapers” with literally hundreds of opportunities for journeys abroad.

Adventures range from round-the-world trips from London to Singapore, to simpler ones such as teaching English in Asia. Taking a gap year is not nearly as popular in the United States as it is in other areas around the globe. In the U.K., approximately 11% of the nearly 300,000 college-bound seniors take a gap year before going off to college.

Reliable data of the number of U.S. “gappers” is not available, but the idea is seeing a surge in popularity. A gap year is very beneficial to recent high school graduates and gives them the opportunity to grow and become more mature. Gap years cannot only be beneficial to the students themselves though, as some choose to take their gap year to help others. More students should consider taking a gap year, because it would make their college years easier.

Potential “gappers” should explore all post-high school options to determine if taking a gap year is truly the right path for them. After all, the whole point of taking a gap year is for students to become more focused on their future goals and ready to learn once they return.