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Editorial: Take a gap year

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | OCTOBER 03, 2012 6:30 AM

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Almost every teacher, parent, or guardian gives the same old spiel: Go to high school, get into a good college, and get a good job. It’s what is expected of and encouraged in practically every student.

However, a new trend for students graduating from high school and undergraduate degrees is to take a “gap year.”

Students should consider deferring their acceptance to college and take a gap year, because it can benefit their studies in the long run.

A gap year is a year or so to take a breather from academic life, and it is a chance for students to gain personal or professional experience, participate in service work, or to partake in educational programs. Gap-year programs can include a variety of work or play in the U.S. or abroad.

The common-sense argument immediately is that students are burned-out from classes, they graduate from one stage of school and head off to an even harder one and to be honest: very few people actually enjoy school.

But the increasing trend of taking time before college helps students prepare for the future, according to a report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The allotted break gives students time to ease out of classroom-based learning and into more experiential learning outside of the traditional school.

Also, as stated by the report, a gap allows students to focus on what they are passionate about and gives them the opportunities to raise funds to directly support those passions.

Plus, time off from academics is scientifically shown to significantly increase academic motivation.
In a study in the August 2010 issue of the Journal of Educational Psychology, scientists showed that participating in a gap year positively predicts academic motivation more than other factors such as sex, age, and ethnicity.  

High-school students and undergraduates aren’t the only ones who would benefit from a gap year, either.

Students of high academic achievement, such as prospective graduate students, may also find taking a year off before starting their respective graduate programs to be an advantage.

University of Iowa law student Zane Umsted took a gap year after graduating from the UI as an undergraduate.

“It depends on the person,” he said.

“If you’re feeling stressed out from school or feel relief at graduation, then there’s nothing wrong with taking a year off.”

But contrary to popular belief, students aren’t always switching work for play. 

Many gap-year programs provide students with opportunities to figure out what they want to do after the program ends.

Umsted took the year off from schooling to more carefully decide where he wanted to apply to law school the following year.

Veering from the traditional educational path may come with a drawback or two.

Opponents of this idea argue that a gap year causes students to lose focus on their academics.

But a survey conducted by Rae Nelson and Karl Haigler reported that of the 300 students who had taken gap years, 90 percent returned to school within one year, and 80 percent returned within six months.

Though the established academic route may make the most sense and keep students on the safe track to getting an education, students should be encouraged to participate in the different opportunities that a gap year has to offer.


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