Double-dip recession, college debt exceeding credit card debt and a shrinking middle class are terms many have heard in the past five years.
While investing in a college education is vital to many people’s success, some wonder if going to school for four to 10 years more, following the initial 13 years of elementary and secondary education, is the best option especially with a bad economy.
A growing trend includes students who take what’s called a gap year, a year where a student does not go to school and performs service abroad and/or reevaluates what they want to do with their life.
While many feel it’s best to “just get through school,” for some, a gap year is priceless because it steers students in the right direction, which is sometimes a different direction than where they were headed in the first place.
Nicholas Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and columnist for the New York Times, is an advocate for gap year who asserts that “you’ll almost certainly learn more from a gap year than you will in any single year in college” in a 2006 column on “Taking a Gap Year.” Included in his blog are links to gap year websites, scholarships and amazing stories of students who take gap years.
One story is of Maggie Doyne, a New Jersey girl who decided to invest all $5,000 in her savings account that was earned by baby sitting, to buy land and build a shelter for orphan children in Nepal.
As described in Nicholas Kristof’s 2010 column “D.I.Y. Foreign-Aid Revolution,” Doyne started by helping a little girl named Hema. About 6 or 7 years old, Doyne decided to pay $7 for Hema’s school fees and $8 for her uniform so she could enter kindergarten. “I knew I couldn’t do anything about a million orphans, but what if I started with this girl?” Doyne told Kristof.
Soon after, Doyne returned home to “take odd jobs and proselytize for her shelter.” A few months later and armed with $25,000 – thanks to her efforts and checks from the people of her hometown in Mendham – she moved back to Nepal to watch over the construction of her creation, Kopila Valley Children’s Home.
The story continues on to this day, including Doyle’s very own website, blinknow.org, where she writes about her experiences in Nepal.
While this story may be one out of a million, some of the United States’ prestigious colleges encourage students to take a gap year, including Harvard University, Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University.
Contrarily, colleges and some parents encourage to students and children to follow the idea of going to college right after high school, finishing in four years with an undergraduate degree and adding a few more years for post-graduate degrees.
To some students, postponing college means setbacks.
Chaminade freshman, Francine Baubata, explained that she was already accepted into Chaminade and had already received scholarships but was scheduled to attend Army basic training in Oklahoma and Georgia for seven months.
“Going to college a year late means entering the workforce a year late and it means setting me back in a few other things,” said Baubata, who is majoring in computer science.
“I knew this was going to be a setback for me, and it still disappoints me to this day that I will unfortunately have to graduate a year later than I should have,” Baubata said. “If I had a choice, I would have gone to college immediately after high school. I wouldn’t recommend (a gap year). If you can get it out of the way, do that, and relax later.”
On a positive note, Baubata realized that she learned how to conquer minor setbacks with major comebacks. She is “determined to work hard and take extra classes to catch up” with her class.
Taking a gap year is a choice that many students are unaware of. Knowing the possibilities ahead and setbacks at risk, students may decide that a gap year will lead them to open something spectacular or fulfill a dream they would not have known otherwise.