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The Gap Year: To Take or Not to Take?

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You moved your tassel to the left, shook the principal’s hand, and walked across the stage. After years of hard work and juggling extracurriculars, you have finally graduated high school. Now, what do you do from here? Most will say that they want to go to college right away. A lot of high-schoolers revel about the college experience in all of its quintessential glory. Football games, late nights studying in the library, studying abroad… the list is endless. After hearing that, who wouldn’t want to embark on their next adventure immediately? For some, the line is a bit more blurred. Financial obligations, family problems, and other obstacles prevent students from being able to attend college right out of high school. A solution to that: taking a gap year.     

     Gap years can be extremely beneficial. After the hustle and bustle of 13 nonstop years of schooling, a well-deserved break is exactly what some students desire. The top benefit to taking a gap year is a detox. Some students utilize their gap year to relax at home with their family and friends and reflect on their lives and where they would like to go from here, while in the right mindset. 

     Another benefit to taking a gap year is travel. The gap between high school and college can be the perfect time to explore yourself and the world around you. There are multiple programs and volunteer opportunities that students can embark on after high school to develop a more worldly view. The world is your oyster, and at 18 you have nothing less than the entire world at your fingertips. 

    An additional benefit to taking a gap year is time to focus on the future. The most commonly asked question at family dinners is most likely, “What do you want to be when you’re older?”. Not having that figured out just yet can be daunting, and it might be a deterrent from pursuing a college education. That one additional year can prove to be highly efficient in finding out who you are, and who you want to be. 

     Although gap years might seem exactly like what one needs after high school, they unquestionably have their disadvantages. For starters, they can be expensive, especially if traveling is more of your forté. Rooms, flights, excursions, exploring, dining… it’s incredibly overwhelming. If you plan on continuing your education at a university, a gap year may not be a suitable option when comparing the cost benefits. 

     Another disadvantage is a pure lack of momentum. When you express your desire of a gap year to friends or family members, they might worry that one year will melt into another, and soon you’ll be left stranded, never making anything of yourself. After years upon years of completing assignments and meeting deadline after deadline, one year of limited responsibility can take a toll on your motivation. 

      A third disadvantage is losing contact with friends. While your friends are in college, their time will be crammed to the brim with social events, classes, and newfound independence. You may feel that over the course of a year, your relationships with them are deteriorating. This may exacerbate feelings of solitude and detachment from a world you once knew. 

      When all is said and done, this is a decision that your caregivers and yourself will make with your best interests in mind. Throughout the entire process, it’s vital to assess yourself and make a judgement call based on how well you think a year away will serve you. If travel fascinates you, and you feel that a year away devoted to just that would be the ideal escape, then a gap year may be perfect for you! On the other hand, if you know that a year off would dissuade you from accomplishing any academic goals you may have, then a gap year is probably not your best decision. Whatever choice you make, make it with caution and ease. As exciting as it may seem to have a year with zero impending deadlines, that freedom can escalate in the blink of an eye. The grass is always greener on the other side, but let’s remember that the other side might not be an option for long.