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Gap Years: Are They Worth The Risk? Essay

Every year, students fresh out of high school re locate to a new temporary home for college, ready to start the next chapter of life. While eager to do so, many students do not have a clue to what they want to pursue or pick majors that they are unsure of. A recent study released by ACT, College Choice Report Part 1: Preferences and Prospects, stated that nearly 80% of high school students taking the ACT selected a major they intended to select in college. However, 64% of those students choose a major that did not fit with their academic strengths and interests.

This could have the possibility of increasing the number of students who change their majors which is never a bad thing, but time is money in the economy, and money is something that should not be wasted. Many students will not admit such a secret, but most are not ready to start college and are still slightly burned out from the work of high school. A solution to this problematic situation is an old trend, yet still commonly popular around the world, called a “Gap Year”. Taking time off may seem like a dangerous thought, but it is important to take time to dedicate yourself to finding out who you are, that’s why a gap year can help you save money in the long run, expand your knowledge of the world around you and even help your grades.

One of the most difficult periods of life for a young adult, is college. Studying for classes, commuting, new expectations, and the list could go on for a long time, but one thing that tops it all is student debt. It is important to pick the right school and the right major, because if not, a lot of valuable time and money is wasted that could have gone into something that was a much better fit. This is where a “gap year” could be a helpful solution in the long run. It may not seem like a great idea at first and can even seem ludicrous that this idea could even save money, but if done correctly it can. The idea is that by taking a couple of months or a year off, the student should get a job, something that is new and can tech he or she a new set of skills, volunteer for a charity or help around the community.

“I’ve had parents tell me their child would probably have dropped out after first semester or year because they were so turned off by their classes in the academic experience, but a gap year helped them get excited and gave them a focus.” (Bull). Doing these activities can help one work through the process of finding their true calling and could possibly help them decide what major is right for them. Instead of diving head first off the highest cliff and into the cold, murky water below, the student has instead decided to take the scenic route and dip their feet into the clear water of the beaches. However, this can also be a bad idea for the irresponsible or lazy people who decide to take a year off. If instead of working they decide to slack off, they have wasted time and money that could be put towards their future and discovering more about the world and themselves.

With so much around to explore, there is only a limited amount of time to do so while being young. While being young, our wallets are either empty from not working or full from working too much, and with school and curfews, these limits present a barricade to going far and exploring. College is a time to break these limits and explore, but there are still those barricades to a certain degree, which in life there will always be. But taking a gap year lessens the limits by extreme lengths, even promoting travelling and getting outside the usual comfort zone. By taking time off you learn a horizon of new things and get to explore uncharted areas of life that can be helpful to know for the future. Colleges, like Princeton and the University of North Carolina, are even supportive of this trend and even offer scholarships to scholars who decide to embark on such a journey (Hoder).

There are a range of programs that offer to help youth during this time, and these organizations like the American Gap Association and USA Gap Fairs, are expanding very quickly to help young adults travel or with advice on how to tackle their own gap year. One issue with this however, is that there needs to be research and a plan before anything. Many students wait last minute and eagerly just don’t sign up for classes. They then realize that they have no clue what they want to do or that they may have chosen the wrong activity. Choosing the wrong program is similar to choosing the wrong major, and while it may not be that expensive, it is still money going down the drain. That is why it is a good idea to brainstorm in advance what programs and places to travel may be a better fit and could possibly benefit the student’s future.

Grades in high school are very important, but if there is one thing that makes that statement look like a soft teddy bear, it is grades in college, the flaming pits of hell. College is the key to anyone’s future and can make it or break it in certain cases. If pursuing a degree or major that the student is not interested in, there is a higher chance of that student letting their grade slip into turmoil. Robert Clagett, a senior admissions officer from Harvard has found that students who have taken a gap year, before rushing into college life, have GPAs that, on a 4.0 scale, are 0.15 to 0.2 higher than otherwise would be expected. In Randye Hoder’s article, “Why Your High School Senior Should Take a Gap Year”, she interviews A young woman, Corrine Monaco, who had gone to an academically rigorous school in New York, and by her second semester of her senior year, she was burned out from the hard work.

She knew she couldn’t go diving back into school. She decided to then spend a few months traveling across the country. When she finally got to college, she was genuinely excited to be back in the classroom again. “Taking a gap year was the best decision I ever made.” Monaco said about her experience. It is common sense that someone who is overly worked will, overtime, begin to fatigue, which will show in their work academically or professionally. However, taking time off should be used to focus on the future or beneficial activities, and the main goal should be to return to school. If sight of that is lost, then a gap year could have been for nothing if wasted and nothing was learned. But not going to school doesn’t mean a gap year was also a waste. Some people could cross paths with a great opportunity that would not present itself again if they decided to stay on track and go to school. That is what a gap year is all about, finding ones path outside of the pressure from the world.

A gap year can be the greatest experience or a complete waste of time, depending on how one looks at it. A negative stigma follows the trend, with many believing that once you take time off, you will not want to return. Many people will deny this, but deep down, does anyone? When we take time off and spend it relaxing and exploring life, why would anyone want to return to the monotonous routine of school and work. But a gap year is supposed to solve that and help you find, not a job or something to make money, but a passion or a career that you want to do, not need to do.

With society’s strong emphasis on money, which is a necessity of life in our time and era, many students zoom through their youth with their nose to the grindstone, missing out on life and lessons that may only present themselves once. It may not be for everyone, but a gap year is definitely something to consider if one is unsure of life and what direction they would like to take and can be very helpful if done right and with a positive outlook the journey and life itself.


1. Blakmon, Olivia. “Just the Stats: Majority of College-Bound Students Select Wrong Majors.” – Higher Education. N.p., 5 Dec. 2013. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.

2. Driscoll, Emily. “Taking a Gap Year: What Students Should Consider.” Fox Business. N.p., 20 Sept. 2013. Web. 02 Oct. 2014.
3. Hoder, Randye. “Why Your High School Senior Should Take a Gap Year.” Time. Time, 14 May 2014. Web. 01 Oct. 2014.

4. Strutner, Suzy. “10 Reasons You Should Take A Gap Year.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 30 Nov. 2013. Web. 01 Oct. 2014.

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