Student takes a “gap year” before college

By Hope Wagner, Staff Writer — As May approaches, the time comes for seniors to make decisions about their futures post graduation. After four years of rigorous school work, many graduates are feeling burned out with the idea of another several years of school. Others still may be confused about majors and what they want to do in college. This is why more and more students have resorted to taking a gap year to relieve stress and take a break.

A gap year is a break in formal education- usually after one completes high school. Much more common in European countries, students can take this time to travel, volunteer, work and generally find out who they are by getting more cultural experience. Students who are drained after all the AP classes, sports and extracurriculars in high school can also use this time to focus on just doing things they enjoy- on their own time schedule. They can do things they actually want to do without worrying if it will look good on a college application and so forth.

Senior Jordan Kirsch is planning on going to Finland as her gap year. She will be living with a family and going to high school there before coming back to the U.S. for college.

“This is one of my last opportunities to try something new and travel before I go to college,” Kirsch said. “I also wanted to take a year to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.”

Kirsch will be living with a family in Finland, much like a foreign exchange student.

Though a gap year may seem great as an idea, it takes a lot of planning in order to be done well. Most gap year organizations recommend that college-bound students apply to college before taking a year off and then simply deferring. It is also important to make set plans so you do not spend a whole year sitting on your couch eating chips. Some worry that taking a gap year can be less beneficial than anticipated.

Teacher Beth Winkler feels that students may lose motivation to go back to school after their gap year.

“I like the idea of travelling and experiencing the world, but I feel like you’ll never want to go back to school after that,” Winkler said.

Oddly enough, some schools, such as Harvard, actually encourage first-year students to defer a year. According to Time magazine, Harvard has seen a 33 percent jump in the past decade in the number of students taking a gap year. It seems to be that the main thing holding students back from taking a gap year is their parent’s stigma attached to taking a year off.

“I would take a gap year if my parents would let me. It’s crazy to think that at 18 we are expected to know what to do with our lives,” senior Mary Kuntzman said. “I think a gap year could really give me some perspective.”

So if you are unsure about your future or just want to spend some time experiencing life, a gap year could be the perfect solution.

[Updated Aug. 10, 2017: This article has been reformatted for consistency.]