OPINION: Why not take a gap year?

By Megan Osborne, Staff Writer

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Usually when students graduate high school, they’re already thinking ahead to college and their future academic classes. But what most students don’t realize is that they can benefit more from taking time off — in the form of a gap year.

A gap year is when you take the year off after you graduate high school instead of going to college right away. When taking a gap year you can decide what you want to do. Whether it be traveling, working, volunteering, or just trying new things, you allow yourself to branch out and spend more time learning about yourself.

In fact, other countries like the UK and Australia encourage their students to take a gap year or do some traveling before going off to university.

Go Overseas, a travel company and website focusing on travel and study abroad programs, cites statistics showing that gap years are far more popular in European countries. “Recent statistics from [The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service] show that over 5 [percent] of accepted university applicants in the UK deferred admission for one year in 2012,” the company says. “Statistics in the USA pale in comparison, where an estimated 1.2% of first-time college freshmen deferred admission in 2011 to take a gap year, according to the Higher Education Research Institute”

It seems that other countries are more concerned with building up their individuals to their highest potential and making them more well-rounded while Americans are more focused on maintaining a hard work ethic. American students are expected to go to college right after high school without any breaks.

This shows that Americans focus too much on working and not enough on enjoying what life has to offer. There’s so much more you can learn from real experiences and from other people all around the world, rather than in a classroom.

Some colleges even offer their own gap year programs.  For example, Princeton University has its own gap year program where students can either work, travel, volunteer or even all the above. They can choose different areas of focus that they find some interest in.

By doing this, you allow yourself to build up your resume and to become more educated about the world. You get to learn independence on your own without the college experience so when you go right to college you aren’t searching for yourself.

Before you commit to a college, remember that you have the choice of taking a gap year if you aren’t ready for the big leap. Soul searching is something you should have the opportunity to do on your own before going to college, so that you are more familiar with who you are and what you want. It’s OK to not know what you want or where you want to go. Take the year off, enjoy the little things and live a little.