The Gap Year (4 of 5)
Beginning school as a freshman the following fall, you will have the distinct advantage of maturity, additional education, a rested mind, and increased social confidence. Often self-growth is the process that occurs in the background of life, while we aren’t paying attention. As a result, it tends to be ignored or devalued. The self, especially during times of transition and growth, should instead be prioritized. During this phase of your life, little is more important than understanding who you are and what you want from the world.
With self-awareness and confidence also comes success in academics and work. Unfortunately, other pressing priorities overwhelm this subtle necessity. It usually takes decades to fully know yourself—in fact, most people never get to that point. It’s best to begin early and practice the art of reflection often. If you do, you will have more success and less stress—while saving tuition money in the process.
If our anecdotal authority is not persuasive enough, the following excerpt from “Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation” by William Fitzsimmons, Harvard College Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, should bolster the argument for a gap year:
For over thirty years, Harvard has recommended this option, indeed proposing it in the letter of admission. Normally a total of about fifty to seventy students defer college until the next year.
The results have been uniformly positive. Harvard’s daily student newspaper, The Crimson, reported (5/19/2000) that students who had taken a year off found the experience “so valuable that they would advise all Harvard students to consider it.” Harvard’s overall graduation rate of 98% is among the highest in the nation, perhaps in part because so many students take time off. One student, noting that the majority of her friends will simply spend eight consecutive terms at Harvard, “wondered if they ever get the chance to catch their breath.”
During her year off, the student quoted above toured South America with an ice-skating company and later took a trip to Russia. Another interviewed in the article worked with a growing e-commerce company (in which the staff grew from ten to a hundred during the year) and backpacked around Europe for six months.
For the full article, please visit the Harvard Admissions Website.
Rather than dwell on the potential downside of a year spent exploring the path less traveled, we should all consider its benefits. So, once you’ve finished getting into college, do yourself a favor and pause to consider setting aside some time for getting into yourself. You’ll be happier that you did. You do not have to follow the crowd Saved by the Bell-style from Bay Side High School directly to the College Years. College is about becoming your own person. So, take a moment and consider the best course of action. We trust you to make the right decision, and so should you. Just don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from others.