BY TAMARAH WALLACE
As caps descend from the air and the distinct melody of graduation begins, a student realizes that, for most of their peers, one four year academic battle will soon be replaced by another. However, unlike previous years, they will not be sparring alongside them. Yes, they have just graduated from high school and no, they are not going to join them on their college endeavor- yet.
As defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, a gap year is time taken between leaving high school and beginning university that is usually spent travelling or working. It is also distinctly European in that most American students have never heard of the term. Recently, however, gap years have slowly gained more traction in the United States, so much so that the first daughter, Malia Obama, made the decision to defer from the distinguished Harvard University for her own sabbatical year.
“I think that taking a gap year between high school and college could be very beneficial for students who are still unsure of what they want to do with their life,” CCHS Junior Jenee McPhail said. “They have a chance to be their own person and discover what they’re passionate about.”
Gap years have a world of benefit as the overworked high-school graduate now has the option to explore the world outside of the school life they have led for the past 13 years. Many see it as a powerful learning experience- in fact, coveted institutes of higher learning are exceedingly supportive of the year-long break from academics. One such institution, Harvard University, plainly states on their website their encouragement of “admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way.” They go on to say that the benefits of gap years definitely outweigh the detriments in that it fosters “increased maturity, greater ‘ownership’ of the student’s education, increased self-awareness, greater global awareness, fluency in a foreign language, and of course… self-confidence.”
“I think it can be a great experience, as long as you’re able to do it financially and especially if you don’t feel ready for college right away,” CCHS Senior Ben Goldstein said.
Even though gap years have garnered much support, there are some who pose obvious questions of concern and feel that with free time comes the ability to waste it. According to Emma Landers of Go Overseas, that sentiment combined with the fact that when students go back to school, they will then be a year behind makes a strong case against gap years. And with the sheer expense of travel also furthering its impracticality, gap years are a huge decision that could easily negatively impact its participants.
“It could cause some students to become unmotivated and they may end up not going back to school at all,” CCHS Junior Berlin Rodriguez said.
However, with that said, the gains of gap years are exponentially beneficial and the definition of “gap year” could be altered to reflect the needs and abilities of the student. Instead of travelling, the graduate could simply do something just as eye opening and worthwhile with less of a price tag, such as begin an internship. The students could also take the sabbatical at another time, when their studies are more complete and they are more financially stable, like before graduate school.
“I think I’d be more likely to do [a gap year] between undergraduate and graduate school,” Goldstein said. “I want to start college right away but I’d probably be ready for a break after four years.”
Overall, gap years, though inconvenient for some, present intriguing advantages. Most importantly this time taken allows students to break free of familiarly structured school life and learn more about the world they live in, others, and themselves- knowledge that is overwhelmingly vital in the ever changing world of today.