When you think about graduating high school, it is almost ingrained in your brain that college is the next step. You think, “Who doesn’t have a college degree?” And where in life am I going to get without one. But school is not for everybody. A lot of kids, including me, just go to college because it seems like the right path. Kids who have no idea what they want to do, think “well a college degree could be useful,” well why would you want to go do something, when you have no idea why you’re even doing it.
Well, there may be another option. There is a British tradition, which is called a gap year. Defined by Cambridge Dictionaries Online as “a year between leaving school and starting university which is usually spent travelling or working” (Cambridge University 1). Now this sounds interesting, doesn’t it? What if you had a whole year to do what you needed, travel or work, something to help you figure out what you really want to do with your life.
In Britain, there is now this option. With this idea in your head a question comes to mind, should the U.S. adopt the British tradition of students taking a gap year? In the paragraphs below, I will tell you why I think the U.S. should. I have looked at both sides of whether or not the U.S. should adopt this British tradition. I have found though, that it is working tremendously for the UK. That is the main reason I think that the U.S. should use this idea, if it is working so great for the UK and their colleges have a better reputation maybe we should also think about adopting this idea. I think students should take a gap year for many other reasons also though, which have to do with the student. First and foremost, it offers a great worldly experience and gives students time to do what they need to do. It also gives those students who have no clue what they would like to major in or do after college, time. Time is what many students need, being rushed into college right after high school and having to do college applications during senior year really stresses some students out.
Me being one of these students, last year when applying to colleges, I had to write that I was undecided. And here we are midway through my first semester of college, and I am still undecided and have absolutely no clue what I want to do. And I feel like a lot of students are in the unspoken situation I was in. Maybe if gap years were a more widely accepted idea and promoted then students who didn’t quite know what to do would have another option. Anybody can do gap years also! It is not just used for young students. Older people going back to school, have this option also. And no matter the money situation there are so many options, so no matter what if you wanted to travel you could. There are student travel abroad programs, volunteer and scholarship options. No matter if you have money or not, you can get a great worldly experience that will give you time and extra skills which most students will not have in college. Many people think taking a year off of school is dangerous.
Not dangerous in a physical way, but mentally. An opinion of many who are asked about gap years is that students will not return to school once they have had the freedom of no school for a year. It is believed that students will become mentally lazy, and will not want to work again and realize that they really do not have to go back. But in researching this, I have found that kids who take gap years to do progressive things have loved their decisions and come back ready to learn again. On the infamous website planetgapyears.com, many students tell about their experiences with gap years and how it really helped them become motivated again. Even though people think kids will not go back to school, I think it’s better for someone to take a break then go to college when they are not ready. Studies show that “the dropout rate for incoming college freshman is almost 30%” (NCES 1).
Most freshmen who are not equipped to handle college yet or who are not ready, but do it anyways, just end up dropping out. A Student dropping out provides lower statistics for good colleges, not because the college is doing a bad job but because kids just are not ready. Why should a person go to college when they are just not ready for it? If the dropout rate is high why not let a student defer their application until they are ready? This is how the British gap year works, a student applies to colleges their senior year of high school, like a normal fall applicant would. Once accepted, the student then defers their application and the university gives them an amount of time off. When this time is over, they start in the next semester. Most British colleges offer this to students, and a lot of colleges actually encourage it to students who think they are not ready to handle the college life. I think the U.S. should do this to, only because it is working so well in Britain. The gap year is proven to be a helpful and great experience for students.
If it wasn’t why would universities encourage it? Students come back from these trips or years off with a new found want to learn and a refreshed mind. After going to school for four year, it is definitely hard to be excited to do the same thing for another four years. But with a gap year, you’re doing something else for a year, so when you come back you are in learning mode. Another argument someone who is against gap years may make is that they are expensive, especially if you are looking to travel. This is completely wrong though! Travelling is only one option, you can choose to just live at home and work, or focus on something else! You do not have to spend money to take a gap year. But there is always that option too! Many students want to take a gap year, but have no savings or money to do so. No problem! British universities offer thousands of travelling options, such as scholarships, and study abroad programs. Scholarships can help you get started and make it much cheaper.
And study abroad programs are too, they help students get more for their money. And the study abroad option also helps them still be a part of the university they would like to attend! So you’re not fully out of school, you’re just off the main campus for a little while. Also there are volunteer options, where you can spend a little bit of your time volunteering but get to go somewhere for free or for a small fee! So there are many options for students who are not well off with money, which we know in this economy is a lot of us, so why not do it? You must wonder truly how popular gap years are in the UK. Well I found statistics on a website called gapadvice.org. A non-biased website towards gap years, this website is geared towards students who are looking to take gap years. It gives basic statistics and even research on gap years into how helpful and beneficial they are for students.
According to UCAS Figures, the ‘students take a gap year’ rate per year is about 7%, and has stayed close to around 7% since 2002 until around 2011. But this year had a surprising, 37% reduction rate in the amount of students taking a gap year. You may ask why this year had a reduction rate. Nobody is really sure why, but a study called “Revision of Gap Year Provision” report commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills could only talk good things about gap years. This report was carried out by Dr. Andrew Jones from Birkbeck, University of London, to talk about if he thought gap years were hurting or beneficial to students.
All he says in this report is that it is beneficial to students to take gap years, finding that “Planned and well-structured gap years are a highly beneficial experience for young people. They are often important factors in facilitating the next step in education or employment. Participants gain a wide range of life skills and other more specialized skills. These skills are often the ones employers identify as lacking in new recruits and are valued by universities. Gap year participation also benefits wider society both in terms of the activities young people undertake and the wider impact of facilitating the integration of young people into society as functioning citizens” (Jones 1).
This is amazing. A professional does a study and finds only good things about students taking gap years. He also found that in the UK “between 200,000 and 250,000 young people aged 16-25 are estimated to take a gap year of some kind each year” (Jones 1). This number is huge and has only gone up since the earlier 2000’s. I think with only good things to say about gap years, what is the hurt in taking one? So I’m sure most students think, what’s the point? But if you really think about it, everyone has somewhere they would like to travel to eventually. So take this time to travel there. Almost every student story I read online from a student’s perspective, said that taking the gap year was one of the smartest things they have ever done. And on top of that, that it was one of the best experiences of their life.
I’m sure as soon as you would mention taking a year off of school to your parents, is as soon as you would jump off a bridge, this is the same for me. My parents believe college is a necessity and would give me some crazy look if I had even mentioned taking a year off of school last year. But I do regret not even mentioning it. As of now, it’s taking me some time to get used to college. I have adapted pretty well, but I definitely think a student like me who has no idea what they want to major in or do outside of college, a gap year would have been a good learning experience for me. I didn’t have a chance to do this, but you do.
With so many programs you barely have to pay any money to experience a whole new culture and part of the world. You can experience hands on activity and travel at the same time with volunteering. And you could even stay home, but don’t be lazy, take an internship, get a job, do something productive. It gives you time and options to think about what you would like to do when you grow up, and gives you time to set a financial ground for yourself before going into college. Students come back with worldly experiences and things many people have never seen before, which gives them a leg up in college. If there is only good to say about it, then why not?