Imagine yourself in your primmest moment. You are full of knowledge, energy and most importantly, you are curious.
You are curious about the world, about people and about purpose. You’ve just graduated high school. You are young and inexperienced. You’ve read books about people and places, but everything seems out of reach. All the wonderful things you have explored in your classes are just ideas to you. You are too concerned about college applications, campus tours and scholarships. You don’t have time to explore. College is an amazing privilege to further your knowledge, and some may argue, even narrow it. Common among students within the college community are those studying one specific major. Whether it’s business or journalism, there is usually a set of courses to go along with each specific major and minor. But what if you have no idea what you want to do? What if you change your mind? What if you have had no exposure to anything outside of your high school college counselor and your parents’ encouragement? Many people go through life thinking their curiosity isn’t worth exploring. It’s a sad truth that the majority of people end up not liking the job they have chosen to work for the remainder of their careers. If given the opportunity to expand the thought of their destinies, maybe people would choose differently.
Not popular in North America, it is almost expected to take a gap year after high school in Australia, New Zealand and some Asian and African countries, and it is on the rise in many western European countries. Their theories on taking a gap year is to further mature a student before they decide what to invest time and money into instead of rushing. Taking a gap year can mean a multitude of things. In Africa, most students take a gap year to wait to receive results from an exam they take. While they wait, they learn a trade or hard skill. In Australia and surrounding countries, students often take a year or more overseas to explore and learn about the world and the cultures within it. Some also attend universities outside of the country. In many Asian and European countries, similar to Austrailians, they take a gap year for travel and exploration.
Taking a gap year for enjoyment is a much different perspective than what people in Northern America seem to be catching on to. Although few would deny the desire to travel and explore the world, the few that take gap year take them to work and save money in preparation for attending school in the future.
Gap years can be beneficial in many ways. For one, student debt is an overwhelming and a very hard thing for an 18 year old to understand. Going into college without the knowledge of how loans work or the potential hardship paying them back could inflict on your life is a dangerous thing. Taking a year to simply understand responsibility and the importance of the next few chapters of your life could be beneficial to the development of your career and the development of maturity within the new adult. Experiences are fast and effective ways to grow.
I think gap years should be more accepted and encouraged in newly graduated high schoolers. We should encourage the young and bright to explore their curiosity in whatever way they feel most beneficial to their growth.