After being in schools for 14+ years (this includes kindergarden/ It could be longer if the pre-school schooling starts before 4 years old) it makes incredible sense to stop being in school and actually take a breather, to make sense of the world outside of school BEFORE committing to another 4 years of college. I mean, how does anyone have a clue about the realities of life and the limitlessness of thought and cultural variety unless you experience it at a more intimate level and be responsible for your own actions in that real world; independent of parents, or other figures of authority? To learn by doing, refreshing your mind by seeing and understanding the world in it’s glory and complexity – differently through new eyes (yours or through association with others you meet on your Gap Year travels) can only be good before sinking your teeth into an intense academic study and socio-relational confluences of the liberal arts college and then of course career(s).
Success and leadership in life depend on insight, perspective, social maturity, curiosity, resilience and so many other “soft skills” that can be brought to bare in managing the challenges and opportunities life presents. How can one actually do this well, at a higher level, without having lived a bit independently, as a self-agent, before stepping into what should be the intellectually challenging world of college? How much more energy, excitement and intellectual purpose can be injected into the the wonders of the college experience if the charge from a Gap Year is applied – giving education, intellectual curiosity, and the rationale for schooling a context and purpose. And the GapYear helps to imbue an individual with greater clarity of direction, helps answer the question, Why am I going to college and what does it have to do with anything that is important. If any population need too have that question answered, it is the graduation high school senior who is still in the throes of late adolescence and needs the concrete connection to be tangible and immediate.
The Gap Year is a partial counter to the pedantry and constriction of the traditional academic track. It refreshes and invigorates and more effectively prepares students to learn to manage their lives before college (than the typical school), and helps to flush the standardized silliness of our outmoded and obsolete 19th Century educational models; giving meaning and purpose and offering a chance for students to become self-directed, capable, thoughtful leaders who American society so dearly needs. A society that has become an increasingly complex, dysfunctional society; a less democratic and less courteous, less mutually-supportive culture.
Don’t be afraid of the Gap Year; embrace it and make it be one of the life-changing and formative times in your life.