Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
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Tags: gap year
July 29, 2014

Going for the gap

by Ellie Struewing, Online Features Editor
Whether you are a freshman just embarking on your high school career or a senior getting ready for your last year, college has probably crossed your mind. And with that thought comes plenty of others: are my grades good enough to get into a good college? Have I done enough extracurricular activities and things outside of school to make my resumé look impressive? How on earth will I be able to afford the college of my dreams? In the college preparedness frenzy, many students overlook other post-high school options, like a gap year, that can help students do something they are passionate about and learn what is right for them.

While it is a rest from school, a successful gap year doesn't mean sitting around and relaxing. Instead, students tend to use the time to travel and discover more about the world and themselves. They can choose to do volunteer work, like teaching English in a foreign country, take a backpacking or biking trip or work a political campaign-- the opportunities are endless.
Many students take time during their gap year to do volunteer work Courtesy of Link Overseas Exchange
Many students take time during their gap year to do volunteer work

There are some small disadvantages to gap years, but there are so many benefits that more students should seriously be considering them. Sure, it will interrupt your school experience and it may be pricey, but these things should not keep you from considering a gap year. Some feel that this interruption distracts students from college and makes them not want to go back to a formal education afterwards, but data shows that 90% of students who take a gap year return to school within a year. Even more importantly, according to the same study, the highest rated outcome of gap years is that of gaining "a better sense of who I am as a person and what is important to me." While they will be a year behind in their education, students who take a gap year will be able to come back to formal schooling with a fresh outlook on the world, ready to learn. In addition, if money is an issue, students can get a job during gap years to help pay the costs and get work experience.

In addition to being a great experience, gap years can help students prepare for the stress that comes with college. Lots of people think that to get a good higher education, well-known colleges that are nearly impossible to get into and cost a fortune are the only good option. The truth is that indecision and anxiety is often found in students attending these high-pressure schools. In fact, more and more students who attend these kinds of schools are seeking therapy. In the words of Washington Post Columnist Ezra Klein, "For many kids, college represents an end goal. Once you get into a good college, you've made it and everybody stops worrying about you. After a few years of study, you find that it's early in your senior year and you have no skills pointing to an obvious next step." To avoid this dilemma, taking time away from school instead of jumping right into college after high school will help students find and use the skills that will help them further in life. They will become more prepared for college and life afterwards.

Gap years are also a good time to explore interests to see if they are really worth pursuing in college and beyond. Nobody wants to be stuck in college studying something they are not passionate about. A gap year can lessen the chances of that. One way to pursue an interest is to find an internship related to it. After getting some real life experience, students can then decide if they would like to continue on that path later.

Students often feel as though their whole life is preparation for something in the future. Middle school is preparation for high school, high school is preparation for college, college is preparation for a job, etc. But while thinking about the future is something everyone should do, it won't mean much unless you understand yourself in the present first. So instead of making your way through high school thinking only of college, take a step back and think about the advantages of waiting a year and discovering more about the world and yourself.

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  • EK on July 31, 2014 at 2:44 PM
    Good piece Ellie, only made better by quoting Ezra Klein. He is truly a god-like figure.
  • Magic Man, man. on August 12, 2014 at 11:49 PM
    Great job with this piece! Glad we could help you spark the idea, and you did a good job running with it. :) -E
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