Gap years should not be frowned upon

Gap years should not be frowned upon

Sam Tujague, Opinion Section Editor

On your laptop screen, the Common App drop down for “What Major do you Plan On Enrolling As” sits and glares with a menace. You do not feel confident in your secondary education goals, but pressures from family, friends, and guidance counselors make you feel like there’s no other choice.
Why not take a gap-year? Out of all college-bound students, only 3% take a gap year; however, in a study at Temple University, researchers found that an overwhelming 96% of gap year students said they saw serious benefit from taking one. Perhaps most impressive, research shows that gap-year students are more likely than their peers to be civically engaged, perform better academically, and be more prepared upon entering the workforce.
The Gap Year Association (GYA) defines a gap year as: “a semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.” An abundance of programs cater to this time off, and many students choose to take an independently focused break. Young people may choose to volunteer for organizations like International Volunteer HQ, travel abroad, or focus on personal and career development.
In a study by Nina Gallagher with the GYA, students who took a gap year displayed a statistically significant higher grade point, an average of 0.1-0.4 points more than a university’s other enrolled students. A higher level of work ethic comes from their developed connection with the world, personal interests, and career/studies. The positive effect of taking a gap year tended to carry through all 4 years of secondary education, creating a better educational experience for those who took the time for self-discovery.
The idea of a gap-year is often looked down upon. The common fear is that a gap year will deter highschool graduates from enrolling in secondary education after their time off. However, studies show that 87% of gap year-students re-enroll and stay enrolled, whereas, according to an Education Initiative study, about 75% of regular first-year college students will remain enrolled.
Choosing a degree or going to a school one is not certain they are interested in can be detrimental to a student’s motivation and satisfaction; entering college with a confident mindset is a gamechanger. Research proves the stigma around gap-years to be outdated and based in fear, not fact. For many, taking a gap year offers a chance for self-discovery through personal and career experiences– an opportunity for young people to grow into themselves before entering secondary education.

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