The terms “gap year” and “taking a year off” used to be interchangeable. High school and college graduates who are desperately seeking some sort of mental break, find solace in these phrases, even though they mean different things to students of today. Though it is fair to say students who have pushed through 12 to 16 years of lectures, research papers and group projects long for free time, those lucky enough to actually take a break from schooling do not exactly gain an abundance of freedom.
Often times taking a year off implies these young adults are taking the easy route or “being lazy.” Having mom and dad pay for an expensive backpacking trip through Europe is not exactly common for students who spend a year out of class though. The term “gap year” is much more legitimate when describing a modern student’s experience.
A gap between times of formal education, now, often implies work, work and more work. For many students going straight into college or graduate school is simply impossible given tight finances. A year gives them time to dedicate themselves to making college funds. Students should not be judged for taking time to make money instead of jumping right into schooling they are not ready for or spend money they do not have.
There is a worry, mainly for parents, that if their students take a year off they will never go back to school. Though these concerns may be warranted these worries cannot be applied to disciplined students. Those who want to receive higher learning will, those who do not will not.
One study done by past employees of the U.S. Department of Education found that 90 percent of students who plan out an intentional gap year return to college the following year. Though these statistics seem inflated, the point is still there; students have every opportunity to go back to school if the desire is there. Given this worry, should parents be more concerned with pushing their student into something they are not ready for.
More and more students already feel pressured to achieve the best GPA, receive the best letters of recommendation and get accepted to the best colleges. This is all for nothing if the student being pushed has no idea what career they want to go into. Simply put, those who are ready to study toward an education should.
Those who are not ready should take a year, or even a few, and figure it out while gaining funds and an understanding of self. In fact, colleges are now transitioning into an age of actually encouraging future students to defer their enrollment until the following year and use the time to do something beneficial, whether that be for the student or the community at large.
Harvard University even, “encourages admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work or spend time in another meaningful way.” Other universities are following suit, supporting the idea of young adults indulging in self exploration before sliding into more education and career development.
If Ivy League universities are starting to insist young adults receive an educational break, society should take a step back and understand the benefits to gap years instead of judging them based on misconceptions of laziness.