South seniors begin to widen the gap

By Julia Lytle
Published: March 2009

In the past few years a new trend has grown among high school students all over the United States: the gap year. Many graduating seniors have begun to slow down their education by taking a year off before entering college. Gap years, many students believe, give kids the chance to explore the world and decide what it is they want to pursue once they finish college.
The gap year has been popular in Europe for a long time, and has recently gained popularity in the United States. At Swarthmore College, the number of students deferring their education in order to take a gap year doubled for the freshman class 2008.

For students choosing to take gap year, the possibilities are endless. Gap year projects range from helping to rehabilitate penguins in South Africa to performing field research in the Tibetan mountains to biking across the U.S.

Students are faced with endless opportunities, and they can take the time to focus on something they know they want to continue professionally later in life or they can try something completely new. Gap years are a chance for teenagers to challenge themselves, and think outside the box before returning to a conventional college education.

For students at Newton South, the gap year is just beginning to gain popularity. More students each year consider taking a year off than the year before. For seniors Matt Shea and Emma Collins, a gap year is a serious consideration in their plans for next year.

“Essentially, I’m taking a year off to explore new options so maybe I’ll have more of an idea of what I want to do before [entering] college, Shea said.

Shea has thought of many options for a possible gap year, but is still not sure which path he would like to take. As a student with dual-citizenship (Shea is also a citizen of the U.K.), he has countless opportunities to live and work in many European countries.

The choices for Shea range from renting an apartment in London to traveling with a gypsy circus troupe across the continent.

Collins, on the other hand, although not completely sure of her decision to do a gap year, has a fairly definitive plan in place in case she does decide to take a year off before college. Collins plans to live with a family in Seville, Spain, take Spanish classes, and do community service.
All of her plans would be made through a program called the Council on International Educational Exchange that offers travel opportunities for high school and college students, teachers, and educational groups.

With the various opportunities already organized for students and the endless possibilities for students to create their own gap year programs, taking a year off between high school and college is becoming more and more fashionable for the present generation.

Students are striving for more independence and self-confidence before they enter the four years of college that define the rest of their lives. Gap years provide them with that extra time to grow and mature that will help them make the most out of their higher education.

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