By David A. Alpert
One of the most important lessons I have learned in my time on the Prefect Council has been that an issue can almost always turn on how it is framed. So, when people ask me why I am interested in taking a gap year and deferring the start of freshman year for 12 months, I reply in turn, âwhy not?â
Â Thatâs the most important concept about a gap year; you lose nothing and gain everything. No matter what you do, whether you travel the worldÂ and learn a dozen new languages, or stay at home, get a minimum wage job and attempt to learn the true value of money, by taking a gap year you gain real world experiences thatâll be of great help at college, in and out of the classroom.Â
I donât buy the talk that you lose something by entering a college a year after all your high school friends graduate. If anything, you can use those friends as a great resource in getting tips about how to adjust to college life. And my instinct tells me after a yearâs worth of real autonomy, that adjustment wonât be too rough.
If your parents are willing to support you, go for it. If not, try to convince them.
Â Thereâs been talk about âmental health daysâ off from school when one falls behind and the pressure builds. Consider a gap year a sort of âmental health year.â After the rat race of high school, with the non-stop tests, and incessant talk of GPAs, APs, SATs and college applications, I personally feel a little worn out. And while I canât wait to go to college, I think to truly appreciate those four years, I need time to recharge my batteries.Â
And speaking of appreciating that college education, Iâm reminded of one of my friendâs thoughts about a gap year. At the request of his parents, he considered paying his way through classes at a local community college during his year off.
The options truly are limitless when it comes to planning your year. That thought is so refreshing and liberating after years of inflexible daily structure. This year is about you, not about classes, teachers or grades.
With my gap year, I currently plan to travel to six countries over eight months. I will volunteer with a program called Cross-Cultural Solutions in a small town in Russia for seven weeks, followed by five weeks in Cape Town, South Africa. I will go home for three weeks over New Yearâs and then spend the next eight weeks cheaply traveling through Australia and New Zealand. I will then work with CCS again in Xiâan, China, home of the terra-cotta soldiers. My gap year will wrap up with four weeks traveling again on the cheap in Spain.
I have the benefit of taking my gap year with a close friend, which makes traveling the world a little less intimidating. But that doesnât mean that we havenât had some second thoughts, and thatâs part of the reason why I have put myself out there as a vocal proponent of the gap year. I know that the more I talk this experience up, the more likely I will be to get up and go when the time comes. And I have no doubt in my mind that itâll be worth it. I know that the worldliness, culture and knowledge Iâll gain from this year will make me a better person.Â
So do it with me. Mind the gap.Â Take the leap. Weâll all be better off for it.