High School Graduates Should Take a Year Off before Entering College

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Students need breaks! For some students, a two-to-three-month summer break just isn’t long enough. Some students need time to live, to explore, to understand, to transition, and to find themselves. A gap year is a break in education after completing high school before furthering education at a college or university. A gap year gives students an extended time off. This time off can help students to refresh their minds, focus on personal aspirations, and better prepare themselves for college.

Success-seeking students should have the chance and ability to take on a gap year in between high school and higher education due to the possibilities of 0 college preparedness and focus on career goals.

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While being popular in Europe for an extended period, gap years have started to gain popularity here in the United States. Although no formal statistics have been recorded on the participation of students in gap year programs, the American Gap Association, which is based in Portland, Oregon, found results in their surveys that about 30,000 to 40,000 students participate in gap year programs each year. Between the years of 2014 and 2015, the rate of participation had increased about 22 percent (Yen). There are many different routes to take when taking a gap year. Students can intern, work, travel, take part in various programs, or take a break from education and work minimum wage jobs. One may want to focus on working or interning while another may want to focus on traveling. Even though many may want to travel their whole gap year, for some it’s not possible. On the bright side, gap years are full of possibility. Some students can spend their gap years the way they choose (Fitzsimmons, McGrath, and Ducey).

It is understood that some students don’t have the financial stability to travel and explore as much as others and other students don’t really have their minds set on specific gap year programs or ideas. A Senior Lecturer of Educational Psychology, Gerwels, states that planning out a gap year “can require sacrifices and much more work in the execution than originally anticipated.” Gerwels makes the case that although taking a gap year seems to be an excellent choice for students, students should evaluate the benefits and expenses of their choices before deciding whether they should take a gap year and what exactly they’ll decide to do during their gap year.

Students have different opportunities to take when it comes to a gap. Students must think about what exactly it is they want to achieve or gain during the process. Some students may want to gain more work experience; some students may want to gain more life experience. Some students may simply just want to travel the world and gain more knowledge about the world while others have difficulties figuring out what they’d like to do for their year off.

Students that are really interested in taking a gap year but don’t know the best route to take can be assisted by gap year advisors. Regardless of their financial status, goal-oriented students can always find a way out of no way. Although a gap year may come with expenses, there are various programs that students can be a part of to make their gap year affordable and worth taking.

The Center for Interim Programs consults students and help them to find their best fit. The counselors involved in this organization help students find their perfect matches based on their “interests and budget.” They make “customized referrals which include: group travel programs, low cost volunteer options, internship placements, language schools, wilderness courses, academic semesters, research trips and much more.”

During his/her gap year, a student can sit down and figure out what’s best for him/her instead of just applying for schools after schools. Some students apply for schools because of their popularity; they like the schools because of their bands, football teams, or just because most of their friends are interested as well. Some students apply for school that have the degree program they’re looking for but just because a school offers a certain program, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their program is the best. The student will have more time to make the right decision.

Fitzsimmons, McGrath, and Ducey point out that students in high school sometimes have their minds set on certain careers and college majors without really taking the time out to figure out if it’s really the best route for them. While some know exactly what they’re getting themselves into, other students apply to various colleges without taking notice of their degree programs or whether the schools are even a great fit for their interests, according to “many observers.” Students sometimes are pressured into applying for schools early to feel as if they’re not “being left behind”; they see it as a need to go ahead and apply early while everyone else is doing the same. Some have described it as “hysteria.”

Also, according to Fitzsimmons, McGrath, and Ducey, many students are quick to feel the thrill of freedom and start to behave self-harming activities. In many colleges, counselors have had to increase their involvement with students due to the needs of the overwhelmed student body. On the other hand, some students who graduated with degrees and have become successful in their fields of study have questioned whether the college experience and struggle were even worth the hassle to make it into the real world. Some experts in their fields of study ended up where they are due to the high hopes their parents or others had for them and not because they had the desire to. They didn’t have the chance to live young and as free as they wanted because their minds were merely on their future and career goals.

According to a part of 2015 National Alumni Survey by Nina Hoe, PhD, Institute for Survey Research, Temple University, and the AGA Research Committee, 92 percent of their respondents had the chance to “gain life experience and grow personally.” A gap year gives students the time to mature and get a better feel of the world as a young adult. Some students transition straight from high school to college and do not know how to handle themselves as responsible adults. They just want to have fun regardless of the possible consequences. Most of the time, students that have unsuccessful freshman years have them due to them not being used to the freedom of doing what they want when they want, always having it easy in high school, or simply because they haven’t matured enough. Taking a gap year gives students the opportunity to gain more knowledge or experience in any aspect that they choose. Taking a gap year doing productive activities can result in students gaining more focus and determination.

Students that have taken gap years off before attending Harvard take on the custom of the “gap year” from students in the U.K. Although certain countries require students and other people to take part in military service, most students are “effusive in praise” regardless of what was done during their time off. Students that have took their time off describe it as “life-altering” or as a “turning point.” Their extended transition helped them to visualize their aspirations at a higher level. It helped them to understand more of what they wanted and expected in academics and their future careers. Most of these students agreed that they would take their gap years all over again because of they gained from it (Fitzsimmons, McGrath, and Ducey).

Being able to understand exactly what one wants in life can better his/her chances to have a successful pathway to his/her future career. The activities students decide to take part in while on their extended break can possibly help them to figure out what their real interests are. The activities students take part in while on their extended break can possibly lead them into a different direction from before. Some students think they have it all figured out in high school only to get to college and realized that they didn’t. Some students get to college and realize the choices they made weren’t best for them. Some students pick the wrong schools, the wrong major, the wrong degree program, or the wrong career path. The gap year gives students more time to get it all figured out. Having more time to analyze one’s aspirations, interests, and goals gives them more time to realize what college and career choices are better for him/her. Some students pick majors and future career goals based on salaries; some students pick majors not understanding exactly what path it will take them in their career.

Even though a gap year can be beneficial to students, results don’t always come out positive for every student that takes them. It is possible for some students to start slacking or fall behind. Some students may get used to the life of not attending school and not want to deal with anymore academic stress. Students that easily begin losing focus are not the best candidates for taking gap years. Not all students should take a gap year; a gap year is not for students that insist on resting and relaxing their whole break. Their gap year taking a downfall is merely their fault because plans aren’t followed through. A gap year is only useful and beneficial to those that take great advantage of it. It must be taken seriously, and students must come to some type of conclusion on what they want to gain from it in the end.

Taking time off can be frightening or “daunting” for some families. Some students find themselves wanting to take the same paths as others around them. Parents often become concerned about whether their child will still enroll after taking time off. Not only is it scary to not know whether a student will lose focus but that they may lose their academic study habits and “skills.” “High school counselors, college administrators and others who work with students taking time off can help with reassurance that the benefits far outweigh the risks” (Fitzsimmons, McGrath, and Ducey). Many colleges encourage students to take gap years. According to Fitzsimmons, McGrath, and Ducey, “Harvard College 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.” Colleges support the notion because it benefits the schools as well. Students that take time off come back prepared and have less chances of dropping out.

It is up to students to keep their focus. It is up to students to make the right choices. Planning a gap year and taking a gap year takes a lot of determination. It is up to students to ensure that their gap year plans will make and not break them. Students must be goal-oriented for their gap year to be a success. Students that take full advantage of their gap year have better chances at having a successful college career. Not only are there many opportunities that can be taken to have a great gap year but there are many opportunities and possibilities that can result from taking the gap year.

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