Something untraditional: take a gap year

Elizabeth Madden

As I was doing my homework in my room after school last week, I heard my dad call from downstairs, a grave seriousness marking his usually jovial tone. “Elizabeth! Your mom and I need to talk to you.”

“Oh no,” I thought to myself, my heart sinking and my stomach churning. This could only mean one thing: I was in major trouble. As I walked downstairs, my mind began to race about what I could have done wrong. Did I have an unexplained dent on my car? Am I suspended? Did I delete my dad’s recording of the Lakers game?

I entered the room with trepidation, taking as long as possible to cross the seemingly mile-long distance from my door to my dad’s desk where my parents were sitting, looking somber. I thought I had prepared myself for the massive blow I was about to get, but I wasn’t even close.

“Elizabeth, we need to start planning your college trip.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m very lucky to have the time and resources to be able to visit these colleges. It’s just that planning a college trip marks the beginning of a lengthy, year-long grueling process of applying to colleges, constantly on edge and comparing yourself to others (“Is she applying early to the same college I am?” “He already finished his apps, and I haven’t even started!”).

Planning one’s college trip means having to narrow down the list of colleges you’re interested in, which I feel totally incapable of doing right now.

How can I know what kind of college I want to go to when I’m still discovering who I am as a person?

Some of my friends know exactly where they want to go, what they want to major in, and what they want to do afterwards. They have their whole lives mapped out, at the ripe young age of 16 or 17. I’m in complete awe of them, having the power to already see themselves in the workforce when I can’t even fathom not being able to see my friends every day.

In the United Kingdom, it is commonplace to take a gap year in between your senior year of high school and your freshman year at college. They have time to figure out who they are and what they want to do with their life, while taking a breather from the stress of school for a year. Some students elect to take that route in the United States, but not many.

I think that more people should consider taking a gap year in between senior year and college. You get a chance to grow into yourself, maybe try your hand at a few internships, and figure out what you want your place in the world to me and the impact you want to make.