Opinion | Taking a gap year prevents academic hardships

By Matthew Lozano, Columnist

College admissions can be one of the most frantic experiences for the average high schooler. And when students apply to college and decide where to attend in a timespan of under a year, it is only a matter of time before regret and reproach of their half-baked life choices creep up on them.

Enter the gap year: an alternative conduit to success rooted in doctrines of career and interest experimentation rather than diving into adulthood headfirst.

There is immense value in taking a gap year — perhaps even many years — to either work, travel or take classes that pertain to career interests without being tied to a four-year program.

Research shows an overall benefit to academic performance for those who have chosen to take a gap year prior to continuing their academic journey along with a higher sense of motivation and clarity toward career plans.

But because the idea of shipping your child off to college following post-graduation is so vehemently instilled in the minds of parents and educators, students are met with the detriments that come with hastily attending college unprepared.

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    A survey by the Gap Year Association showed that 81% of participants who took a gap year had that experience influence their career choice. In other words, 81% of students potentially avoided incredible financial hardships and stressors relating to changing their career path and major during the middle of college. 

    The most common examples consist of high school students that have no idea what career they desire and choose to enter college with an undecided major. That begs the question: If the goal of college is to gain experience in a desired field and receive a diploma that signifies credibility, what use is there in choosing that option without the career choice locked in? 

    It’s financially damaging and emotionally taxing on an individual to worry about something completely intangible like the responsibilities and skills needed to prepare for an unknown career. 

    Even in cases of students with seemingly clear career goals, plans can change at the drop of a dime. These students experience the same disservice of entering college too early as those who came in undecided — they are back at square one. That is not to mention the stress of having no sense of direction with two years of time and tuition already under their belt.

    This can be avoided if given more time to figure out likes and dislikes prior to entering college. Taking classes at a community college to gauge interest levels in a career, as well as deciding if it is generally feasible, can be monumental to a student’s financial and emotional security. 

    But it is not only about the existence of an option for students. Yes, it is becoming more acceptable to take a gap year, but it is not yet the norm.

    And it should be. Society must advance toward an ideology that emphasizes deliberation in making lifelong decisions. That is not to say that all of the students who decide to go to college after high school are automatically making the wrong choice, but it may not be the most informed one.

    Unfortunately, for the students who already fell down the immediate high-school-to-college pipeline, the decision was made, and it is too late to turn back. 

    The benefits of the gap year are now an elusive thought of yesterday.


    Matthew is a sophomore in LAS.

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