The Benefits of a Gap Year Essay Example
From the first day of kindergarten through the final day of senior year, the student’s educational focus is graduating from high school - but what comes next is one of the teenager’s most substantial life decisions. Throughout high school, students meet with their guidance counselors to review future plans such as going to college, trade school, the army, or taking off a year for self-discovery. Out of those options, taking a gap year is least chosen and most frowned upon, but that year’s worth of experience provides different benefits socially, scholarly, and directionally. Global Citizen Year’s report points to impressive results, with gap-year students completing college and learning foreign languages at higher rates than typical students (Blumenstyk). To validate the necessity for gap years, the Gap Year Research Consortium is conducting research on the difference in persistence rates in college between gap-year and non gap-year students. Additionally, they are researching ways to make these experiences more available to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds (Blumenstyk). The Gap Year Research Consortium’s mission statement includes, “To encourage and disseminate the results of higher educational research on the outcomes of students taking a gap year between high school and college.” Despite the expense, high schools and colleges should provide more gap-year information and opportunities in order to make gap years more available and more affordable.
Although there are some issues with taking a gap year, the opportunity allows for students to mature and take control of their future. These issues are more complicated than they first appear. During a time of economic drought, past experiences become increasingly beneficial. For example, the value of a college degree amidst a pandemic is higher, considering prospects for employees with a high school diploma is weaker than those with a bachelor’s degree (Picchi). This creates a gap in the different student types varying from a 6.9% unemployment rate for college graduates, to a 12.1% unemployment rate for high school graduates because college graduates are more likely to have jobs that transitioned to remote work (Picchi). Logically, attending college straight from high school and obtaining a degree is a secure route to take. When a gap-year student graduates a year later than her high school classmates, she forgoesforegoes the first year of income earned by a college degree. Instead, they earn the same income a year later and never catch up (Picchi). In addition to the loss in income and opportunity, “Many commercial gap-year programs tend to draw from upper-income families” (Blumenstyk). This does not provide equality for students of all socio-economic backgrounds to enhance their learning experiences. The forgone year of income is inevitably part of the gap-year process, but there are solutions to the other challenges. Forty-nine percent of Global Citizen Year’s participants are from low-income backgrounds, and the program only charges tuition to families that can pay, and the remainder receive full or partial financial aid (Blumenstyk). Excluding the loss in income, the issues of availability can be successfully addressed successfully be addressed.
One way to make gap years more accessible to students is hiring a gap-year counselor at each high school. Gap-year counselors work with students individually to plan and personalize a gap-year experience.
These counselors have in-depth knowledge of a number of Gap Year programs, can connect students to alumni, and work with students throughout the planning stages, the journey itself, and the transition back to university. Based on an applicant’s personal preferences, a counselor handpicks a few potential programs out of the many available, or helps to design a custom independent Gap Year. (“How”)
Gap-year counselors have experience and knowledge to offer every high school student to make their students aware of all possible opportunities. Especially for students who struggle financially, having tax dollars fund this program would solve inequality among the students’ future experiences. According to Gap Year Solutions, if students were to purchase a professional Gap Year Plan, it would cost them each $2,200. Specifically at Hillsborough High School, there are roughly 2,400 students, and if every student were to invest in this program, it would cost a total of $5,280,000. Instead, Hillsborough High School could hire a counselor for around $70,000 (Hillsborough). This option saves money and creates an opportunity for all students, not just the ones that can afford it. In the fall of 2020, forty percent of the incoming college freshman class were unlikely to attend a four-year college (Picchi). COVID-19 has made the gap-year option more desirable for college students, as they do not want to miss out on typical college experiences. If a gap-year counselor was available to the senior class of 2020, more students could have taken advantage of this option and return to college the following year, hoping for better circumstances. A gap-year counselor is a viable solution to reduce costs and increase availability, but high schools are not the only academic institutions that can offer assistance.
Another way to make gap years more inclusive is having colleges promote, sponsor, or even require gap year programs for their enrolled students. Colleges already offer financial aid, academic and athletic scholarships, as well as other grants. To expand these programs, universities can also offer financial assistance to students taking a gap-year. “Princeton and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill already offer aid to students who want to defer their admission for a year. And last year, Duke announced it would provide scholarships for 15 to 20 accepted students who undertake approved gap-year projects” (Zimmerman). Three prestigious colleges have started this trend, and hopefully more institutions gradually include it in their programs. A college education is expensive and one way to make those costs more reasonable would be to finance an experience for admitted and committed students. If these costs are not within the university’s budget, they can offer other advantages for students opting to take a gap year. Institutions could offer admissions preference to candidates indicating interest in a gap year similarly to their early applicants. Another suggestion would be offering course credit for service in a gap year. “At the New School, in New York, students taking a gap year with the school's partner organization can earn up to a full year of academic credit. That way, service doesn't add to the overall length or the cost of college” (Zimmerman). This solution combats the problem of being a year behind in wages, if a gap year counts as credit towards a college education. Colleges have the ability to make gap years more accessible to all students through these programs.
In light of the expense, high schools and colleges should provide more gap-year information and opportunities in order to make gap years more available and more affordable. Taking a gap year allows students to focus on their own personal growth. In that year students have the ability to make an impact on their community, and in that time students should discover their passions while also being productive. If gap years were more common, cities and towns would be more unified in wanting to better themselves and their communities. Businesses would prosper by hiring employees a year later certain of their career aspirations and dedicated to their occupation. “A global poll conducted by Gallup has uncovered that out of the world’s one billion full-time workers, only 15% of people are engaged at work. That means that an astronomical 85% of people are unhappy in their jobs” (Levitan). With a normalized gap-year path, young adults could further explore their intended major and passions to confirm where their talents would best fit in society. Gettysburg College published one third of most people’s lives spent at work. Considering the amount of time jobs consume in the average person’s life, taking an extra year to determine goals and needs will only better society as a whole. A gap-year provides clarity to young adults about their passions and plans to be successful.
Blumenstyk, Goldie. “Making a Gap Year More Than an Overseas Vacation.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 65, no. 25, 8 Mar. 2019, p. A30. Gale in Context: Opposing Viewpoints, www.go.gale.com. Accessed 10 Dec. 2020.
Gap Year Research Consortium. “Gap Year Research Consortium at Colorado College.” www.coloradocollege.edu. Accessed 23 Dec. 2020.
Gap Year Solutions. “Gap Year Solutions.” www.gapyearsolutions.com. Accessed 23 Dec. 2020.
Gettysburg College. “One Third of Your Life is Spent at Work.” www.gettysburg.edu. Accessed 15 Jan. 2021.
Hillsborough Township School District. “Teacher Salary and Benefits.” 2020. www.teacher.org. Accessed 22 Dec. 2020.
“How A Gap Year Consultant Can Help Make Your Gap Year Better.” Gap Year Association, 6 Oct. 2017. www.gapyearassociation.org. Accessed 11 Dec. 2020.
Levitan, Clarisse. “Why 85% of People Hate Their Jobs.” Staff Squared, 3 Dec. 2019. www.staffsquared.com. Accessed 15 Jan. 2021.
Picchi, Aimee. “Taking a COVID-19 Gap Year Could Cost You $90,000.” USA Today, 17 Aug. 2020, p. 01B. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, www.go.gale.com. Accessed 9 Dec. 2020.
Zimmerman, Jonathan. “Why Colleges Should Require a Gap Year.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 66, no. 16, 10 Jan. 2020, p. A52. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, www.go.gale.com. Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.