Note: This post is a companion post to Considering a Gap Year? Maybe You Should (Part 2).
Can anyone actually prove the value of a Gap Year? Probably not, but I wish I had taken a year off between high school and college. I bet that gap year would’ve done wonders for me. Of course, that’s easier said in hindsight.
At 18, I just wanted to get to go to college ASAP. After all, a zillion people had told me it’d be the “best 4 years of my life.” And my parents weren’t on board with my idea to delay college. They worried I’d never enroll if I waited. Adding to that, everyone I knew expected me – and other good students – to go straight to college.
The momentum of going straight to college was simply too great. How could I justify acting on my hunch that waiting a year would help me when so many others disagreed? So I didn’t do it. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even spend much time contemplating it. Off to college I went… into the blur of my first year, I partly blame that blur on my immaturity and not taking a gap year.
Back then, I didn’t realize my hunch about the benefits of a gap year was far from farfetched, even though most college-bound students in the US don’t do it. But support for taking a gap year comes from many places nowadays and countless educators recommend them.
Recently, even Harvard’s Dean of Admissions has encouraged students to wait a year for college. In many foreign countries, 18 and 19 year olds commit a year or two to public service prior to pursuing a degree. And today, my parents believe I would’ve been well served by a gap year. My dad, now well into his 70s, says he should’ve taken one, too.
Of course, none of us can prove with 100% certainty whether college would have been even more fulfilling if I’d waited. But I do know – without a shadow of a doubt – that I got a lot more out of my sophomore, junior and senior years than my first year.
And I also know that the three years I took between college and grad school made me appreciate the opportunity to be a student more. Consequently, it feels like a slam dunk to think I would’ve gotten more out of college if I’d spent a year working, exploring… and most importantly—growing up—before I enrolled in college.