Gap years can be beneficial

All post-high school plans should be respected


Seniors feel tremendous pressure to have their life completely planned out. I, for one, am tired of being asked, “Where are you going next year?” It feels like it is expected that all seniors are going to college and have a plan. This stress is exacerbated for those who choose not to attend college right after high school.

Contrary to popular belief, taking a gap year isn’t just sitting on your phone in your room for a year. For some, a gap year can be just as productive and beneficial as a year in college. It’s a great opportunity to explore career paths, earn money, travel and volunteer. When it comes to important decisions such as college, it’s better to take time to be certain about the choice than to rush the decision and end up unsatisfied and in debt.

There are many reasons to take a gap year, and sometimes it’s not necessarily a choice. Many students don’t go to college right away because they want time to explore their identities or they think their time would be better spent elsewhere, but some students can’t afford college or have to stay home to take care of their younger siblings. It’s important to recognize and support these students who have many barriers in the way of getting to college.

Although I do happen to be going to college next year, many of my friends are choosing to take a gap year, serve in the military or enter the workforce. I want their decisions about their future to be respected as much as my decision, but that’s often not the case.

Many students who are taking a gap year feel judged and left out. Students who are opening acceptance letters and going dorm room shopping tend to look down on others who aren’t doing the same, even if it’s not on purpose. Students should make more of an active effort to be inclusive and accepting of those who are taking a gap year.

It’s not just students — teachers and administrators also contribute to Park’s college-centric culture. In Park Connections, we spend much more time talking about college planning than other post-high school options for students. Although staff should support students who want to attend a post-secondary institution, they should also support those who do not. There’s not enough resources for students who don’t plan to go to college right away so those students have to figure it out all on their own.

It’s ridiculous to assume that college is the ultimate goal for all high schoolers. There are many other paths students can take and still find fulfillment, success and happiness.