BY NICK PLETT
Graduation from high school marks one of the most important moments in a student’s life. It is a moment to shine, to rejoice with friends and to look not only backwards at all that was accomplished but forwards, to all that is to come. It is a turning point, a goodbye to youth and the beginning of adulthood.
The general assumption is that graduating students are ready to go directly to college for the next four years and possibly to graduate school after that. But a trend has surfaced, which allows a student to postpone this phase. It’s known as a gap year and it is growing in popularity.
Taking a gap year before starting as a freshman in college may appear, at first glance, simply a fun and appealing alternative learning experience. But it does have its weaknesses. A gap year at this stage in a student’s life is dangerous for one very important reason. The student may not want to return to the rigorous schedule and academic stresses of student life after enjoying the independence of life in the “real world.” Those who take a year off before college are often faced with the reality that they don’t ever want to go back to the full-time academic lifestyle; because the “real world” is simply too much fun. On the “Highway of Intellectual Growth”, those who choose a gap year are taking a premature exit.
Proponents of the gap year may say doing community service for that duration will help the student realize what they truly want to study in college and pursue in life: that it will give them the maturity to succeed and make the most out of their years in college.
If a “gapper” does return to the Highway, then the risk was rewarded, but failing to continue one’s education through at least undergraduate school before taking a gap year is a very sophomoric risk if one knows one does not have the willpower to reenter the Highway. Everyone is different, but the safest and most logical decision for every student is to stay on course.
I would also argue that an 18-year-old couldn’t contribute as much to his community or the world as he will be able to after graduating from college. The truth is, he is not yet smart or experienced enough.
It is reasonable to assume that the student with more acquired knowledge from his college years, and a mind set on what he wants to accomplish in life, would be able to influence his community in a more effective way than could a newly graduated high school student.
One might ask: does it really make that much of a difference when you take the gap year? Yes, the difference is substantial.
A gap year post-college and pre-“real life,” one dedicated to exploring and giving back to the world before venturing off on a chosen career, would be far more beneficial to the student and community.
A student who has completed college will be able to take what he has learned and apply it to a chosen area of interest and year of dedicated community service.
Colleges help students focus on their passions, pushing them to grow and think in ways not possible in high school. Without this growth, a gap year could be a waste of time and a serious diversion from the important task of becoming an educated, complete person.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a gap year; it just has to be done at the right time. The right time is after college, and before the rest of your life.