Mind the gap: Seniors should take a year off

April 1, 2018 — by Alex Yang

The idea of a year of freedom by taking a gap year between high school and college has been the norm in Europe for years. Yet, in the U.S., harsh social stigma has made it the rare exception.

American students seem to believe that there is no reason to put off college, even if they feel burned out. According to The Atlantic, a mere 40,000 students annually take a gap year between high school and college.

If more colleges took steps to encourage gap years., it is possible that common stress-related issues such as depression over self-doubt and uncertainty about future careers during college could be alleviated — not to mention, the benefit of freshmen being a year older and wiser when they begin their studies. For students who come out of high school feeling unsure about their own futures, this extra time to ponder can end up being an enormous boon to their mental health.

Some in the U.S. have already started taking purposeful gap years. One person famous example is  President Barack Obama’s daughter Malia, who took a gap year before joining Harvard’s class of 2021 in order to begin school after her father completed his presidential term, spent time learning about the film industry with her newfound free time.

The options for students during their year of freedom are massive. One of the most popular, though, is to go abroad and absorb influences from foreign cultures. For example, one UK website, www.Gapyear.com, helps British students find travel, backpacking and volunteering opportunities before they make the jump into university. Even prestigious European colleges, like Oxford University, offer specialized gap year programs to students seeking a more organized program.

To those American students and parents who look down on gap year students as delinquents and failures: There are so many possibilities for one to better themselves outside of going to university straight out of high school. Although it might not be for everyone, a gap year is a great way for teenagers to mature into actual adults before they enter one of the most difficult and important educational periods of their lives.

 

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