As the 2015-2016 academic year draws to a close, most seniors are eagerly awaiting matriculation this coming September. While most are diligently combing through Facebook for the ideal freshman roommate and meticulously planning their dorm aesthetic, there are a handful of high school graduates who are following a new, trendy endeavor: the gap year. Commonly associated with young adults who have money at their disposal, the gap year between high school and college has undergone societal stigma in the past. However, with rising numbers of students choosing to take a gap year, most notably Harvard University Class of 2021 student, Malia Obama, the benefits of deferring your undergraduate education evidently outweigh its negative connotations, and may even give you the upper hand when in college and beyond.
Even if deemed “college ready” fresh out of high school, many students in high achieving areas would profit from taking time off. It is particularly attractive to those who have withered away under the pressures of AP classes, extracurricular activities and community service projects, or those who are simply feeling the pressure of growing up in an elite suburban atmosphere. Yes, we are talking about you. A gap year is an opportunity to slow down and take a breath. It gives students the chance to invest their time into something they may want to pursue. For Janie Karp ’16, she has known since sophomore year that she wanted to do just that. For the upcoming year, Karp decided to stray from the mainstream and travel to South American countries including Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador through a program called Thinking Beyond Borders. There she plans to take Spanish classes, complete social services and take cultural excursions, such as venturing up Machu Picchu. Second semester, she plans to travel to Tel Aviv for a fashion business internship. Karp explained that these ventures weren’t planned in vain, stating, “I’m interested in seriously studying Spanish and I know that eventually I want to end up working in the fashion industry, preferably on the business side of things. I will definitely study these things at Tulane.”
Similar to Karp, a growing number of American students are opting to take a year to regroup, long common in nations such as Britain and Australia. This newfound influx in gap years is seen in the doubling of “gap year fairs” offered around the country, in addition to gap year program enrollment growing by 27% in the years from 2012-2013 alone. With growing interest comes growing encouragement from highly esteemed universities such as Harvard, Yale, Middlebury, and University of North Carolina, and it is no wonder why. Recent studies conducted at both Middlebury and UNC found that gap year students sustained GPAs between .1 and .4 points higher in college than their non-gap year counterparts.
If you had asked me last year if I would even consider taking a gap year, I would have said no, without hesitation. To me, this inconceivable notion of a gap year seemed like the entry to adulthood oblivion, and a waste of money. However, with more education on this alternative path after high school, I realized that with the scholarship opportunities available, and the structured programs at my fingertips, taking a year to find my passion and try something new may in fact be of benefit to me, and with that I urge you to consider it too.
By Julia Steinberg