Should college-bound seniors take a gap year?


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2021 Decatur grads Morelia Camacho-Arriola and Sarah Burke are both in the middle of taking a gap year.

Mackenzie Lawrence, Staff Writer

Are gap years beneficial? 

“You can focus on yourself during the gap year, work and save money, then really figure out as much as possible what you want to do with your life in and out of college,” said Sarah Burke, a 2021 graduate of Stephen Decatur High School.

For those who are not familiar with the term, a “gap year” is the time period a young adult takes to work on themselves in between leaving high school and starting college. This concept is becoming more and more common for high school graduates as years go on.

Gap years give teens the opportunity to figure out their passions and interests before they start their first semester college, according to the branding agency College Marketing Group. If students don’t know their passion or interests before paying for tuition, they could potentially waste their money on a major that they don’t even enjoy.

A study carried out by the American Gap Association on students from Temple University showed the motivations for taking a gap year from hundreds of students who have previously taken gap years.

The study found that 92 percent of students who have taken gap years wanted to experience new things and to grow mentally, 85 percent wanted to travel and see new things, and 81 percent just wanted to take a break from school.

Burke, who is currently in the middle of her gap year, said she took a gap year to improve her mental health and find out her passion in life. Although it helped with those factors in her life, it did have some cons.

“When you stay home and don’t focus on college like your other friends it can be kind of a lonely feeling. A feeling of missing out because they all move on with their life in college and always talk about it,” she said.

“I’ve noticed that most of my family doesn’t like the idea that I’m taking time for myself because people have this idea that if you don’t go to college right after high school, you’re going to fail in life, so they judge you,” Burke added.

Morelia Camacho-Arriola, another 2021 Decatur graduate, chose to take a gap semester during this spring after going to college for one semester due to financial aid complications. Unlike Burke, Camacho-Arriola didn’t benefit as much from this gap semester so far.

“At first I thought it would help with my mental health, but as it turns out, I like being very productive.” She added, “Being at home most of the day makes me feel quite useless. It’s a strange feeling for someone that’s used to being on a schedule.”

After taking this gap semester, she will be attending Wor-Wic Community College for a semester over the summer. The semester continues to give her time to discover her passions in life but it is also getting her behind on her degree.

Maxwell Anderson, a senior here at Decatur, has been planning on taking a gap year when he graduates since his freshman year. During his gap year, he hopes to travel and go to Europe to explore and look for different types of alternative learning.

When asked about his parent’s opinion on his decision, he said: “They don’t care what my choice is, as long as I’m happy in life, so they’re all right with it.”

Both of Anderson’s parents and his sister have taken gap years after graduation. They all enjoyed it and his mom got to travel the country. The only person that is not too supportive of his decision is his grandmother.

“She thinks if I stop going to school, then I won’t want to go back,” he added. “I feel like it’s normalized in our society to the point where a lot of people do take gap years.”

Anderson wants to go to college after taking his gap year, but he worries about losing his motivation to go after having a year to explore new things.

“I’m just concerned that if I don’t go to school then at some point I might get disinterested in it and realize that there’s more to life than college,” he said.