Note: This post is a companion post to Considering a Gap Year? Maybe You Should (Part 2).
Can anyone actually prove the value of a Gap Year? Probably not, but I wish I had taken a year off between high school and college. I bet that gap year would’ve done wonders for me. Of course, that’s easier said in hindsight.
At 18, I just wanted to get to go to college ASAP. After all, a zillion people had told me it’d be the “best 4 years of my life.” And my parents weren’t on board with my idea to delay college. They worried I’d never enroll if I waited. Adding to that, everyone I knew expected me – and other good students – to go straight to college.
The momentum of going straight to college was simply too great. How could I justify acting on my hunch that waiting a year would help me when so many others disagreed? So I didn’t do it. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even spend much time contemplating it. Off to college I went… into the blur of my first year, I partly blame that blur on my immaturity and not taking a gap year.
Back then, I didn’t realize my hunch about the benefits of a gap year was far from farfetched, even though most college-bound students in the US don’t do it. But support for taking a gap year comes from many places nowadays and countless educators recommend them.
Recently, even Harvard’s Dean of Admissions has encouraged students to wait a year for college. In many foreign countries, 18 and 19 year olds commit a year or two to public service prior to pursuing a degree. And today, my parents believe I would’ve been well served by a gap year. My dad, now well into his 70s, says he should’ve taken one, too.
Of course, none of us can prove with 100% certainty whether college would have been even more fulfilling if I’d waited. But I do know – without a shadow of a doubt – that I got a lot more out of my sophomore, junior and senior years than my first year.
And I also know that the three years I took between college and grad school made me appreciate the opportunity to be a student more. Consequently, it feels like a slam dunk to think I would’ve gotten more out of college if I’d spent a year working, exploring… and most importantly—growing up—before I enrolled in college.
Fitz has dedicated the entirety of his 25 year career to encouraging higher education opportunities. He worked in the Vanderbilt, Duke Law and St. Lawrence admissions offices prior to serving as an enrollment management consultant for dozens of colleges around the country. He partnered with his former Vanderbilt colleague, Nicole Cook, to form Find The Right College and support their mission to make trustworthy college counseling more accessible.