I got this link from one of my old students. It’s not about gap years, but it made me think of the topic anyway.
I don’t know that many folks who actually took the step of taking a gap year. I know a handful who went off to follow employment for a few years (hired through an internship before they received their Bachelors degree), but I don’t know anyone off the top of my head who successfully took a year off after high school.
I’ve heard quite a few students in my short time say that they didn’t know if they were ready for college. The usual reason, when you dig down some, is that they don’t feel like adults yet. They see college students (often their older friends) as being much more mature and worldly, and don’t see themselves as being up to snuff. Some students have other reasons, like wanting to save up money for college, but that’s less common. Most of the ones I’ve talked to don’t feel ready on an emotional level.
It’s weird for me to think of “not emotionally ready” as a reason to avoid going to college. When I think of what you need in order to handle the Peace Corps, living on your own, traveling through foreign countries, or doing the other things that people talk about for gap years, emotional maturity is absolutely key. Living away from your parents in a stressful environment demands maturity. College just plain isn’t as stressful and doesn’t demand as much maturity. While college freshmen are, yes, more worldly than high school seniors, they generally aren’t considered to be paragons of maturity on the grand scale of things.
However, I do have to admit: if you’re looking to gain that maturity, to grow up a lot in a short time, being on your own is a hell of a way to do it. Doing for others for an entire year, halfway around the world in the Peace Corps, or across the country in City Year, is something that can can really make an impact on your life. Being in the working world and having to pay your own bills, cook your own dinner, and make it to work every morning is a fairly practical way to learn about what adults do.
Experiences that demand something from us have a strange way of creating it within us.