Gap years provide educational opportunities


Graphic by Kelly Roehrig

Lucy Langmack

Over the years, a new tradition has emerged for students to leave their current lives at home and take a gap year. They can travel the world for volunteer work or simply pursue a passion set aside from work or school. Typically targeting high school graduates and freshmen in college, a gap year is an educational and beneficial opportunity allowing students to step out of their shells and see more of the world than what is printed in a travel magazine.

Holly Bull, president of the Center for Interim Programs and a longtime running gap year counseling organization in the United States, defines a gap year as, “…a period of time that people use to explore areas of interest.” Not only is it a stress reliever from the busy society most students live in, but they are able to try new things and become educated in areas of interest.

According to the American College Health Association, more than 40 percent of students become depressed during their fours years in college and 15 percent suffer from clinical depression. Anyone would love to get the chance to study abroad in a foreign country, see a sunset over an unseen ocean, or be able to experience something only showed on the travel network.

A huge advantage to a gap year is the adventure that accompanies it. A trip like this takes guts and student’s would no’t take on the challenge if they did not think they could be daring or rebellious. These young adults are escaping the world of parents and entering the world of making their own choices and being self reliant. Not only would a gap year build maturity and character, but it would be a great chance to figure out who you truly are.

In an interview with, Gail Rearson of the gap year company, Taking Off, said that the name ‘gap year’ implies to students taking a gap in their education. It is about what happens after school, how you make decisions, how you figure out who you are, where you want to go and how you need to get there. Truly, it’s about the skill set you need to live your life.

Rae Nelson and Karl Haigler, the authors of The Gap Year Advantage, surveyed about 280 students who took a gap year from November of 2007 to February of 2008 about their trip. Sixty percent said their gap year affected their majors and careers by either confirming confusion towards a goal or set them down a new path. When student’s are not under stress or shoved in a crowded classroom forced to learn, they can learn for life. If they are out in the real world and learning themselves from real experience, that’s when they can truly obtained lifelong knowledge.

Even though it is exciting, he thought of living in an unknown place with unknown people prevents many students from pursuing a gap year. It is hard enough going to college, imagine how hard it would be to travel to another country alone.

According to Options Solutions Educational Consultants, nine to 12 months away from a classroom learning structure and academics can affect a student’s study skills and become hard to return to. Since most students take gap years after high school during college, they delay their college education by a year possibly graduating later than planned. It can also be incredibly dangerous interfering with different cultures who might not be very welcoming. Most mission trips occur in poor populations and locations, possibly placing students in unsafe situations.

Gap years are one of the most eye opening trips young adults could experience changing the way students perceive the world. It is so important for students to experience the world at such a young age. As they transition into adulthood, they find themselves and why not send them down an influential path to see the world in the eyes of other cultures. Once they return home, students will be more mature, career driven and have the confidence to fully live their lives without the need to travel around the world for an adventure.