The traditional path of going straight from high school to college, while still the most common route, has become less expected of graduating seniors now that new options are becoming not only available, but also encouraged.
According to the American Gap Association, interest in gap year opportunities has nearly tripled in popularity since 2010. A gap year is a period of time a student decides to wait after graduating high school before heading off to college, typically six months to a year. “Gap years are a great way for students to fill life experiences before starting college,” college counselor Lynda Hitchcock said.
During this time, students can task themselves with various activities they choose to help make this time as useful and productive as possible. This time helps students find their interests by participating in different programs that can enormously improve their college experience. Students take this time to get more involved with a particular interest, earn money, travel, become more independent or take a break from school. Some program options are community service, credit or non-credit study, work internships or a combination. “Research has found that taking time out from school helps students to be more motivated once they go to college,” Marie Schwartz, CEO and founder of TeenLife Media, said.
The recent publicity surrounding Malia Obama’s decision to take a gap year before attending Harvard University has raised awareness, and perhaps appreciation, for this option. Having a public example of what taking a gap year actually looks like has drawn more students to consider partaking. The next flow of students are changing their ideas they had planned for their lives after high school. “I am getting more interested in gap years now that they are becoming so popular,” junior Sean Lin said.
Making money during college can be stressful and hard. Gap years can be a useful way to earn some money before beginning another four years of school. The motivation to take a gap year is often financial circumstances – but can be as much about the ability of those from wealthier families to afford a gap year as it is about the need for others to use a gap year to raise funds to afford college in the first place. This shows again how beneficial a gap year can be no matter the student or their cause for participating.
Although gap years can be beneficial, they are not for everyone. Serious risks and factors are needed to be consider before deciding on waiting to go to college. Gap years can be for any purpose, but one thing is always needed: a plan.
One who does not have a plan or goal for this time can lose focus and jeopardize their future. Also, preparing to pick up where one left off once a gap year is complete is just as important as planning how to spend the year productively. Applying to colleges during the senior year is still necessary now that more schools allow graduates to defer for a year.