Normalizing the Gap Year

Zavia Pittman

Staff Writer

High school feels like a distant memory the deeper you find yourself in college. For me, it feels like there was no time between being a senior in high school and being a senior in college. It was like I blinked and found myself knee-deep in financial aid, stress and assignments. When I think about high school now (outside of the memories of cringe behavior), I mainly think about how college-focused everything was. I went to an early college, so my peers and I were constantly reminded of the expectation that we would go to college. That expectation was woven into every lesson and the topic of most conversations we had. However, regardless of what kind of high school you went to, I’m sure this is probably a familiar phenomenon there too.

Every once in a while, when listing out the options a student had after high school, a teacher may have mentioned going to work, but even then it was almost like saying a bad word, and they would whisper it under their breath. And there was rarely any discussion of taking a break of any kind. This made it seem like they were only mentioning it for legal purposes, rather than introducing students to another option. Such a college-focused paradigm was so prevalent in my school, that I never really considered any other choice and I think a lot of students come to college with that mentality. By that point, most of us had been in school for so long that even more school didn’t seem that bad.

In addition to the lack of information given to students about non-college-related life paths, we never really learned the importance of a break during college. I had only heard of a gap year from TV shows/movies when I was in high school, and I essentially thought that it was a myth. Just like the last several years of my education, I thought I would have to sustain myself off of the little breaks we got during the school year and suck it up when things got tough. As important as college is in a high school, many schools never really tell you what you’re getting yourself into. No amount of high school can prepare you for all the woes of college. Yeah, you may know how to turn in an assignment on time, but what about dealing with the weight of financial debt and finding a job that will help you tackle it? 

Simply put, there are stakes to going to college, and it would make sense for someone to not want to go right away, or want to take some time off during college. Whether it be a gap year or semester, a break between or before college should be given equal consideration as any other option after high school. Students could take time to do some soul-searching. They could invest in their hobbies or simply just get to know themselves as human beings. Not to mention, you could just spend that time saving money which is always a great idea. Society as a whole rarely prioritizes taking a break despite the fact that there is so much evidence that a simple break can go a long way for people in almost every facet of their lives.

A week in March isn’t going to cut it this time…and I’m talking about you too, summer break, as if three months is a lot smh

Unfortunately, a lot of students (including yours truly) realize this halfway through their time in college, and it can be intimidating to stop when you feel like you have so much momentum. Everyone doesn’t have the opportunity to take a hiatus from school, but if you do and you feel like you need to, you probably should. Some people may tell you that it’s hard to go back, but that may just be a sign that school just isn’t what you need at that moment. More and more, we are seeing people living fulfilling lives without having to go to college and that may be the path you need to take. Or maybe you just need a year where you’re not taking an exam every month, so that once the year is up, you’re ready to go back into the fray.

All I’m saying is that I surely would have liked to know that I didn’t have to rush into this, and people shouldn’t be bad for wanting to step away a bit. If you know anyone who is at that stage in high school where they’re deciding what they should do, lay out all the possibilities for them and support them in their decision.

And if you’re already in college, know there is power in stepping away from it. 

I might just be there with you.

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