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Should students take a gap year after high school?

January 31, 2019

Gap years taken after graduating high school provide advantages and disadvantages for students.

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Gap years: unproductive, costly, and unworthy of time

Only about 1.2 percent of college freshmen chose to take a gap year before college, according to a 2012 study by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. This means that almost 99 percent of graduating seniors pursuing higher education decided to start their higher education directly after graduating high school. The financial burden, loss of educational momentum, and probable disorganization provided by gap years makes  it clear that this 99 percent is making the best choice.

Although it may sound superficial, many students are bound to feel extreme fear of missing out  when they see all their friends posting pictures on social media about their college   experiences, or  sharing stories about their adorable new roommate. The people you have been in school with for 12 years are now beginning new chapters, and unfortunately, you are left behind.

Taking that year off will put you further back on the educational process and also a year behind your friends. Additionally, the transition between high school and college is already challenging, and taking a year in between may add unnecessary stress to the experience of living and learning in an entirely different environment.

When taking a gap year after high school, you take the risk of losing momentum. While taking a year off can be a refreshing break from non-stop grind in high school, students can find it difficult to get back into a structured schedule and regain their motivation to study.

Additionally, if you are not a goal-oriented student, you can easily get disorganized without a formal educational structure. Despite what some of my peers may believe, I believe you are not an adult at the age of 18 just because the law says you are. A high school student who just graduated may not be mature enough for a solo trip across the world.

Some gap year programs can add extra costs to your educational path. Many students want to travel around or do volunteer work during their gap year, but this can be very expensive and add up toward their student debt. Some programs can cost as much as $50,000 per year, or roughly the same price as one year at an expensive private college, according to the StudentUniverse. Because of the strict financial commitment, only 10 percent of students fully fund their own gap year, according to the Year Out Group.

Maybe the most significant downfall of the gap year is that this year away from school may last forever. Gap years give students a taste of the “real world,” so they may never want to go back to the stress and rigor of the academic lifestyle. Gap years might be more beneficial for students after they earn a degree and can be financially independent. But without a clear-cut plan and money to spend, gap years put students behind academically and financially.

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Gap years helps students thrive before and during college

In just four months, Grady’s seniors will step onto the graduation stage and out of high school. For the first time in the lives of the class of 2019, we’ll be let free to pursue higher education and careers. Leaving high school is a thrilling time, but this isn’t a transition that comes without fear.

Ironic as it may seem, the fear of failure always comes with this ability to find success. It’s easy to fear living a life that is thrust upon you opposed to fulfilling your true goals. To help with this fear of being unable to live out their dreams, more people every year are deciding to take a gap year after high school.

It’s a simple command, but it’s one that far too often goes overlooked: follow your dreams. While many people have career dreams that may take a lifetime to complete, there are some dreams that can be much more immediately obtainable: like volunteering for Americorps, interning on a campaign or hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Not only does a year after high school provide ample time to achieve these goals, but a gap year is, without a doubt, the best time in one’s life to pursue them. Obviously, before graduating high school, a student doesn’t have the freedom needed to go out on their own and after college doesn’t provide much better opportunity.

Ideally, a student makes career connections in college, and to take a year to pursue goals unrelated to those connections could sever that tie. Once a student gets into a career, it’s nearly impossible to take a year off without quitting or getting fired. Put a career along with new familial obligations, and eventually retirement becomes the only time to follow these dreams. I don’t intend to wait that long.

One of the scariest things for those considering a gap year is the worry that an 18-year-old may not be mature enough to take responsibility and command over their own life. As a senior in high school, I certainly don’t feel prepared to live on my own and take care of myself at this exact moment, but that’s just because I’ve been conditioned to feel that way. For my entire life, I’ve been provided for, and to thrust that responsibility on myself is scary.

A gap year does not require immediate independence at all. What it does, though, is mandate responsibility and planning upon the student, and it forces one to be able to develop those critical traits.

After the gap year, a student will be far more responsible than their peers, not because they were raised better or they were born that way, but because they were forced to learn those skills

To many, the excitement of going to college is stronger than anything that world travels or meaningful internships could provide. Others may just enjoy doing what it takes to make money as quickly as possible.

This is understandable, and it’s O.K.. To these people, a gap year after high school is probably not the best move. However, to those who want to open their eyes to the world a little more before diving into the experience of college, a gap year  is not only the best move, but if done right, it could change their lives.

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About the Writer
Photo of Joe Earles
Joe Earles, Writer

This is Joe's first year writing for the Southerner. He is very proud of organizing the stickers with addresses to send the Southerner to over 30 states!...