Upon graduation, some Newton South seniors remain eager to start college, however some, after 12 years of standardized classroom education, look towards completing a gap year to fulfill this desire for a break.
Over the past decade, student’s interest in gap years has increased substantially. Whether the reason be personal growth, or financial, the idea of a year of freedom continues to intrigue students across the country.
According to the National Gap Association, gap year fair attendance has increased by 294% since 2010. Although this does not mean that the number of students taking gap years has increased by about 300%, it does mean that gap years are becoming more of a norm in our busy, success driven society.
Perhaps this increase in interest is due to the fact that there are now plenty of exciting programs available to students as senior Noah Kopf describes that “part of the reason that I applied to Tufts is because they have a great gap year program,” Kopf said.
The gap year options offered at various colleges have influenced many students; however, “it’s unfortunate how many of the other great gap year experiences offered by college come with an equally hefty price tag to college itself,” adds Kopf.
There are many reasons to take a gap year that correspond with the thousands of programs that students can partake in. A chart from the National Gap Association depicts that 92% of the survey participants indicated that they took a gap year after high school to “gain life experiences/grow personally.”
One recent graduate of the Boston Latin School, Lucia Cassan, has been spending her gap year doing just that. “It sounds corny but, you can actually legitimately find yourself, and find what your true passion is because you’re not under the pressure of a bunch of subjects thrown in your face and you have to do well in each one of them even if you don’t actually like a lot of them,” said Cassan.
Like many students, Cassan felt that she, “wasn’t ready to put myself into a college atmosphere because I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”
However, though students like junior Natalie Korzh are unsure of what they want to do, they say that a gap year is not the best option for them. While there are other outside factors, Korzh says “that college is the next step that everyone assumes you’re taking, and to take a gap year is just a choice that I’m not sure I would ever volunteer for.”
A common theme in many student’s gap years remains travel. As previously said by Kopf, gap year travel programs are often times very expensive; however, many students from all grades have indicated that they see a gap year as the prime time to explore the world, and, as indicated by the chart from the AGA, 85% of alumna took their gap year to travel and experience other cultures.
Recent Newton South Graduate, Dan Rosenweig-Ziff, is currently enrolled in a special gap year program that allows him to live in Israel.
“I’m taking a few different classes, I’m doing volunteer work, so it’s not just hanging out,” added Rosenweig-Ziff in response to why he doesn’t view gap years as “lazy”. In addition,
Rosenweig-Ziff mentioned that during his gap year he “just met so many people different than, and that’s just not something that really ever happened to me at South.”
Junior Claire Kroger, who is considering a gap year, recognizes that high school can not always provide the opportunities similar to what Rosenweig-Ziff is experiencing in Israel.
“High school can’t be the only thing that’s helping you be a competent human being,” said Kroger. It is unreasonable to claim that high school should teach you everything you need to know, and students like Kroger may want to explore different types of learning. She would like to, “travel to France to learn french more,” for a more hands-on learning experience.
However, both Korzh and Kroger are not sure if their parents would fully support their gap year endeavors. “I think [my dad] would be supportive if I had an actual plan and he knew I would implement it and do it,” said Kroger.
Newton South teacher and parent Deborah Linder expresses caution to all students who are considering completing a gap year.
“You can’t just have an aimless year, unless there is some sort of social anxiety stuff going on, if there are mental health issues, then I don’t think there needs to be a plan, but if you’re doing it to find yourself and figure out what you want to do, then you need to have a plan,” said Linder.
Adding on, college counselor Kathleen Sabet also advises having a two year plan to help get students’ parents on board as “most parents are open to the idea of a student taking a little break as long as they know what to do after.”
Both emotional and financial support are very important for gap years as Sabet says that “most families are willing to consider the idea. Especially if [parents] think that the student may benefit by maturing a little bit more,” said Sabet.
She recommends that students have a two year plan to help get people on board with a gap year as she knows that “once you’re out of school, sometimes it’s hard to want to go back.”
For an 18 year old who has spent over 60% of their life learning in a classroom, an opportunity to branch out is appreciated and exciting. “Basically everyone who has taken a gap year said that it was the best decision of their life,” Cassan said, “and everyone who hadn’t said that they wished they did.”