Most people hear “gap year” and feel uncomfortable, including me. It’s like an awkward taboo topic for high school seniors. Many parents and students see it as a waste of time and money, or students feel comfortable enough in their school routine that they don’t know what they would do without it. And the most daunting possibility of all: What if I delay school for a year, and don’t want to go back?
I had all of these thoughts when I read the words “spring admit” on my acceptance letter to USC. I had been waiting to go to college for so long, and when I was told I had to wait, I had no idea what to do. Waiting to go to my dream school would be brutal, but I knew the school and the experience would be worth it. So I hesitantly said yes, still unsure of what I was getting myself into. Looking back, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Taking time off before college has become more popular as students become more stressed in school. There is no formal data on how many actually take a gap year or semester, but according to the Gap Year Association, interest in taking time off before college has been steadily increasing especially in the past few years. Everyone, whether they know it or not, needs a break from time to time—and some lucky students give themselves one. High school seniors who took a chance and said yes to delaying the start of college ended up with something really important: free time.
The phrase “gap year” or “gap semester” may be the wrong term. “Gap” implies there’s something missing, and though there technically is, it has a negative feel to it. We should start looking for another name to mind that gap, a name that indicates the opportunities that these students get to experience before they jump back into their routine. The gap is good, so we should treat it like it is.
I wanted to experience an array of things for my gap semester. I got a big-girl job and worked my butt off for 40 hours a week at a local coffee shop. I also traveled abroad alone, which really made me grow up. Volunteering at a daycare in Costa Rica opened my eyes up to a whole other world, something I had been craving my entire high school career.
Traveling alone to Ireland taught me how to really interact with like-minded adventurers, and showed me I wasn’t alone in my independent state. All of my jobs and trips made my semester off the best thing for me. I learned more than I ever could have imagined and came into college hitting the ground running.
School had taken up all of my time in the past, but not anymore. And yeah, there were times I was sad seeing my friends thrive in college and days I wanted to be at gameday more than anything. But I was finally given time to do the things I put off all throughout high school, and it was time to seize that opportunity.
Before I worked at a coffee shop and embarked on my solo, international adventures, I was terrified as a spring admit. At USC, between 400 and 500 prospective students were admitted for the 2018 spring semester, yet I still felt so alone. There are so many gap year options, but how was I supposed to find one for only half of that time? But that question gives spring admits like me room to explore our full potential. I could either back away in nervousness or jump in the deep end. Though daunting, we can create that half of a year because the world is our oyster for at least a little while.
Kids go everywhere from community college to Paris for the fall semester before they go to school. Some spring admits take classes to knock out credits, and some take a break from classes all together. Overall, they’re taking charge of their own life, not missing out on it.
Time is so valuable, so whenever we get free time, we should spend it wisely. And that goes beyond university admissions. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and get out of your comfort zone. The 21st century has programmed us to have a routine, but sometimes creating our own routine teaches us so much more.
“I had actually applied to the American University of Paris at the same time as my current university, so the acceptance for spring admission with the option of a study abroad (at that university no less!) in the fall was like hitting the lottery. As excited as I felt, I was also insanely nervous: Freshman year in two places is pretty much unheard of and that thought held me back. I had major FOMO on all the quintessential parts of my first semester. And I’m not going to lie: Spring admits do miss out on a little, but going abroad my first semester went above and beyond in providing unique and fulfilling experiences I’m eternally grateful for. I’m not going to say it was always easy, but my freshman year I was lucky enough to experience the best of both worlds: living independently in two of the most amazing cities while being surrounded by the college spirit the whole time. If you just got that acceptance ‘box’ and don’t know how to feel when you read ‘spring admission,’ don’t panic! You can still have a fulfilling and amazing first semester— GO ABROAD.”
Rachel Moten, Freshman, Political Science