Should U.S. Teens Take Gap Years?

By: Gerardo Porras

Should American Teens Adopt the British Custom?

Your summer after senior year has come. You should be starting to experience anxiety, except you don’t. That is because you chose to take a gap year, or a year in between high school and college, free of studying, exams, and homework. This is you time, and the benefits will surely be great. Whether teenagers in the United States should take a gap year or not has become a growing question recently; partly due to the fact that 27,000 out of 510,000 British students take gap years (The Telegraph). It is certainly beneficial to do so, and for many reasons. Americans should follow British custom for several reasons that are seemingly enough to convince any student: they would be able to relax and prepare for college, gain life experience, and help themselves and the community.

Students Will Have Time to Relax

First and foremost, gap years can act as a time of peace, quiet, and relaxation. Your options are unlimited, but a common decision is to travel the world. Without any kids, spouse, or financial worries, this would be the ideal time to travel. While being to fully enjoy yourself, you can use this time to drift away from the thought of college and relax your mind from all the hard work it had contributed in your past decade of education. After the year is over, hopefully your mind had enough time away from hours upon hours of studying, taking tests, and doing homework in order to “recharge.” This way, you’ll be prepared for college with a mind eager to finish your education on a strong note. If students feel their mind will rust during this year, however, they can choose to take pre-college courses for college credit. Not only does this give them something to keep them occupied, but it also allows them to have more freedom when choosing their future college courses. It gives students a little taste of college so they can be prepared when they start attending full-time. All in all, a gap year gives students free time that becomes more and more rare as they progress in their adult life. It also allows them to prepare for college and be the best student they can be.

Students Learn Life Lessons

During the gap year, the student will learn many life lessons and how to be responsible, similar to what they would learn in college. There is so much free time to use that students may feel they can abuse it and watch TV or be lazy all day. In reality, a gap year isn’t a year just to take off. It would be essential that the student learns how to be wise about their time. Surely, they can blow that year off, but it’s their loss. In order to make the gap year as beneficial as possible, the student should be active and hard-working. This teaches them how to be wise about time and to have fun only after the real work is done. Along the lines of making your own choices, you have the freedom to eat junk food, leave your room a mess, and spend your money foolishly. Again, it’s up to the student, but once they learn from their mistakes and realize that it’s useless to go around making bad choices, they will be a better person than they were before. Finally, students may face life-changing events that make them more cautious about their actions. An example of this includes a car accident in which the driver was drunk. Similar to college, the students have to learn some of the most valuable lessons in life the hard way. A gap year provides an extra year of learning about these lessons so that you can be a better student at the university and throughout the rest of your life.

Students Can Help Themselves and Others

Gap years can serve as a time to help yourself while also being selfless and helping others. The main way to help yourself would be to find a job and work full-time. This way, you’ll have money saved for college and beyond then, when it may be hard to find a professional job for a few years after graduating. You can also split your gap year into two halves: one for saving, and one to enjoy yourself and travel with your saved money. Another amazing option would be to donate your time and money to the less-fortunate. You can simply volunteer at a soup kitchen or even clean up the park and help plant trees. For those looking to go above and beyond, though, there is always the option of traveling to third-world countries. There, you could build homes and supply the people with donations of your choice--whether that be toiletries or toys. Even your presence would be enough to bring smiles to the people’s faces. To know that someone willingly traveled halfway across the world and is willing to communicate and spend time with you is truly a feeling that must be hard to replace. At the end of the day, it is totally worth it to help others out as you make them feel joyous. It also makes you feel accomplished and reassures you that your gap year didn’t go to waste. Gap years should be taken by American students because it is a time to help themselves and others, financially and supportively, respectively.

The Best Choice? Taking a Gap Year After High School

Why? The answer is simple: a gap year is basically a preview of college, minus the courses. It is also a great opportunity as it gives students time away from school to relax, valuable life experience, and the opportunity to help themselves and others in ways to better the world one step at a time. At the end of your gap year and your first day of college, you’ll surely look back and say, “Taking a gap year was definitely the right choice.”

Works Cited

"American Gap Association." Gap Year Data. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2015.

Digital image. American Gap Association. N.p., n.d. Web.

Digital image. Episcopal Relief Nepa. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2015.

Heinrich, Colin. "Why Every New Graduate Should Take a Gap Year." Why Every New Graduate Should Take a Gap Year. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2015.

Walton, Gregory. "Gap Year Takers 'less Likely to Finish University'" The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, n.d. Web. 12 June 2015.