Is the Gap Year Right for You?

Lauryn Azu

Within our high school and across the country, millions of students are preparing to make the seamless transition from 4 years of high school to a 4-year college. But some students, most famously former first-daughter Malia Obama, have rejected the typical educational framework in favor of taking a gap year.

The gap year, which is when a student takes a year off between high school graduation and their freshman year of college, is very common in other countries such as the United Kingdom. This phenomenon is begging to gain popularity here in America, as even the most elite universities, such as Harvard and Princeton, have instituted formal gap year programs.

Unlike Harvard-admit Malia Obama, you don’t have to be admitted to the Ivies or other selective schools to take a gap year. Most students, such as WBHS senior Vanessa Myers, have considered the gap year simply because they want an alternate destination for their education.

“I have probably had only one student who has taken advantage of the gap year,” said WBHS counselor Ms. Lisa Thompkins. “For that particular student it was a great opportunity. He was able to study abroad, and gain new life experiences he probably would not have had prior to attending college. He went on to attend the University of Michigan.”

For Myers, her experience is expected to be the same. She will be traveling to Costa Rica this August, instead of matriculating to a 4-year institution, and she is excited to learn Spanish and meet new people.

“My counselor Mr. Martinez helped me figure out when to do it and how. I’m going to go at the end of August, and start a gap year program at a multi-cultural school in the city. I’m going to take classes and use what I learn in various social programs,” said Myers.

The benefits of taking a gap year are obvious, and it seems to be a great way for students to prevent the educational burn-out many experience after going to school 9 months out of the year for 12 years. It’s also a great time to experiment with your interests, as it’s better to go into college with a career path in mind, rather than not having a clue.

However, this vacation comes with a slight caution – to have a successful gap year, it’s important to do things that will expose you possible career journey or important life skills. Whether it be traveling abroad to familarize yourself with a new language, or interning at a company in an industry you admire, it doesn’t matter as long as you’re doing something you love

What do you think about the gap year phenomenon? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!