Opinion: Gap year potential could offer students a lot more
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 4, 2013 21:03
We aren’t going about this the right way. Conventionally, when our senior year of high school rolls up, we frantically apply to college without thinking of the alternatives. We do not acknowledge the fact that the time between high school and college is important and can be used to our advantage if we do not have a clear idea of what we want to study or if we are tired and bored of being in school. We think that when we get to school, we will have a chance to explore and learn what we like and what we do not through classes and extra-curricular activities. But is college really where we should be exploring?
A phenomenon that has taken Europe by storm – but has not been as popular in America – is taking a gap year between high school and college. According to Laura Hosid, an expert on gap years at the Vinik Educational Placement Services, Inc. in Bethesda, Md., seven percent of incoming first year university students in England defer their admission by a year to take a gap year. This statistic does not include the students who apply to a university after taking their gap year rather than applying while still in high school. Since this statistic is not readily available, it is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of incoming students in England take a gap year. However, in the United States, only about 1.2 percent of incoming college students decide to defer their entrance by a year. Americans may be more hesitant because of the stigma associated with taking a year off.
Do not think that colleges and universities are less likely to accept students who take gap years. While gap years do not provide an advantage or disadvantage for students applying to universities, many schools encourage their incoming freshmen to take a gap year because of the positive effects while in school.
The stigma against gap years goes beyond school acceptance. Parents are concerned that if their child travels or works for a year, there is a significant chance they will want to continue and not enroll the following year. In a New York Times article written by Rebecca Ruiz, Middlebury College Dean of Admissions Robert Clagett responds to this claim by saying that the year off re-energizes the students and avoids the sometimes academically devastating adjustment period when coming to college.
In fact, not only can a gap year negate the negative effects of transitioning to college from high school, it can also have positive effects on the college career as a whole.
Simply put, a gap year will lead to better awareness of what someone wants to do with the rest of his or her life through traveling, volunteering and working.
By having these experiences it is far more likely that a student will have a better idea of what they want to study and would make a clear and concise decision. Ruiz writes, “Higher education experts say that giving students an opportunity to explore the real world helps them mature…and early research reveals that once they restart their academic studies, they actually perform better than those who go straight from high school to college.”
Having a major already in mind when entering college is beneficial because students are setting themselves up to be efficient in the classes they take, and the internships they acquire.
Also, if a student is more confident in what he or she is studying, they are more likely to put more effort in, and as a result, have higher grades. Clagett sites the fact that the students at his university who took a gap year have significantly higher GPAs than those who did not. Moreover, Clagett states, “There can be this feeling of ‘now what?’…and that can lead to lower achievement, to lower self-esteem. Gap years nip that in the bud.”
By exploring interests and ourselves before we enter college, we are able to more effectively use our time there.