Ode to the Gap Year

Graphic by Julie Samuels

By Isabella Auerbach

Opinions Contributor

Over the past decade, gap years have become a popular option among teens, encouraging students to take time off between their high school and college years. While an increase in this trend is certainly visible, students across the country remain wary of gap years. Most of these individuals, however, do not understand the crucial, long-lasting benefits of this time off.

Many people fear gap years because they believe that pausing their education will somehow make them an inferior student. This belief is completely unwarranted, however, as researchers have found a positive correlation between the choice to take a gap year and the increase of students’ grades when returning to the classroom.

Researchers Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson studied gap years and found that 60% of students in their study stated that their year off set them on or confirmed their current career path or academic major (Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson, 1997-2006). In many cases, time off helps individuals become more focused, engaged students with a growing interest in the world around them.

Moreover, parents steer their children away from gap years, fearing that one year off from school will eventually be extended to a permanent leave from college. Again, this belief is merely a myth. In 2015, Haigler and Nelson found that 90% of individuals who took a gap year returned to college after one year (Shellenbarger, 2010). Gap years, despite popular opinion, do not cause students to lose interest in their college education.

People believe that employers avoid hiring individuals who previously took gap years, partially because of their older age compared to competing candidates. Again, this myth is falsely spread and completely inaccurate. Many companies have stated that they would prefer hiring a risk-taker who took a year off from school, even if he or she is one year older than other candidates. If anything, taking a gap year makes individuals more desirable for companies, and not the other way around.

Gap years are not for everyone. Some students are eager to start their college education, and travelling for a year is not financially viable for all students. But I encourage students passionate about immersing themselves in new communities to take a pause from school and explore the world they live in. The majority of us have lived in Newton our entire lives; it’s time that we branch out in order to become more cultured people, shaped by our vast experiences.