Building houses in the Philippines. Skiing across Switzerland. Teaching in Argentina. What do these activities have in common?
Here at SAS, interest in the idea of taking a gap year after graduation has been increasing. Some may think these overworked students are falling back on their lazy tendencies, but in reality, these post-senior year adventures are comprised of volunteer service, additional studies, internships, entrepreneurship, and many other creative forms of work.
Students are slowly straying away from the tradition of moving straight from high school into college and are coming up with other alternatives to explore their interests. Some seniors need a change in scenery and others may need the extra pocket money, but whatever the reason, gap years have caught the attention of students, counselors, and the administration of SAS.
A Senior’s Perspective
Current seniors considering taking a gap year share their thoughts.
What prompted you to consider a Gap Year?
“I enjoy photography, and although my parents don’t think it’s a realistic career path, I want to do it to test out the waters.” – Andrew Choo.
What are your plans for your Gap Year?
“I want to pursue wartime and conflict photography, hopefully in Africa. But I would first look for connections in Singapore and/or Malaysia.” – Andrew Choo
“I would do a foreign exchange in Argentina, and volunteer to teach kids English. At the same time, I want to study at the University of Buenos Aires and take classes for college credit.” – Katie Judson
“[I would] work with European Snowsport in Verbier teaching skiing all winter season.” – Fleur Oostwal
Some people choose not to take a Gap Year because they fear being behind and not being on par with their friends who have gone to college. Has this been a problem for you?
“I have definitely thought about this. I feel like it would be weird to switch classes (from 2019 to 2020), but since you meet new people in college anyway, I don’t think it would be a big deal. I am on the younger side of my grade, so age wise I would just be on the older side.
I think my biggest concern would be staying academically on par with my peers. Although, I have talked with some of my friends currently on the NSLI-Y gap year and they don’t feel like it would be an issue. It definitely keeps your mind active for the entire time. In addition, lots of people feel that the real world experience and maturity they gain from the gap year far outweigh the possible disadvantage of being slightly behind academically.” – Kaelan Cuozzo
An Alumni Perspective
Current alumni currently taking a gap year give us an insight into their lives.
What prompted you to take a gap year?
“I resisted the fact that everyone is expected to go from years of school to more school with a set idea of who they want to become for the rest of their life. While all my friends were excited to go to college, I was never lured towards it – the excitement just wasn’t there for me. So I turned to taking a gap year where I have recently been living in the real world with hands-on experience in things that I think I am interested in doing—service work/NGO/NPO related jobs.” – Bri Goulding
Please give a brief overview of how you are currently spending your gap year. What exactly are you doing – your occupation/work, where you live, etc.
“I am currently employed by an Australian logistics firm. Most of my work involves the firms treasuries department where I focus on examining the firms financial structuring. I am based in Sydney but get to commute to a few different places for my job.” – Jesse Atlas
“Currently, I’m working at CruCycle (it’s similar to SoulCycle but it’s here in Singapore). It’s been very fun so far – I’m learning how to efficiently conduct quality customer service, how to organize items on our database, and see how an entire business is executed. I have a few offers from newspaper/magazine companies, a news broadcasting station, and an incubator firm for start up companies.” – Pamela Chan
What goals have you set for your gap year – what do you wish to achieve, what do you wish to gain out of the one year’s worth of experience?
“The most important thing is to always enjoy your life. So when I took my gap year I knew I wanted to be doing things I enjoyed while learning and having new experiences. If I can look back in a few months and say that I learned new things, meet new people, and enjoyed myself then I think I can call my gap year a success.” – Jesse Atlas
Going into your gap year, what did you expect out of it? So far, how have your expectations been, as compared to how it is actually going? Better, worse?
“Going into my gap year I was excited more than nervous. I was sure it was something that I wanted to do. Of course, I was stressed out at times, planning a gap year is not easy and it takes a lot of planning and research. So far my experience during my gap year has been wonderful and life changing. Being able to do this is a blessing and I am so grateful for being able to have this opportunity. Although being here can be overwhelming at times, I still love it and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else at this moment in time.” – Bri Goulding
What are some positives and negatives you have faced so far?
“I really can’t think of any negatives to date other than doing laundry and packing my stuff up all the time to travel. Positives that I have drawn from my gap year are endless. I think the most beneficial part of a gap year is that you grow so much when you are really independent. Sure you’re more independent at college than you are at home in Singapore, but on a gap year there are times where you’re completely on your own and those are the times you learn the most about yourself and the world around you.” – Jesse Atlas
Some people choose not to take a gap year because they fear being behind and not being on par with their friends who have gone to college. Has this been a problem for you?
“As cliché as it may sound I didn’t care what everyone else was doing, I knew it wasn’t for me, so I just had to stick with my gut feeling and just follow what I wanted to do. I’ve been a friend with people of all different ages and that’s not really something of my concern.” – Bri Goulding
“No, it has not been an issue. We are all learning, the only difference is they’re in a classroom.” – Jesse Atlas
A Counselor and Administrator Perspective
High School counselor Dale Ford and high school principal Darin Fahrney reveal their perspectives on gap years.
For kids that are interested in taking a gap year, what would be the most important piece of advice that you would give them?
“To come up with a plan. A gap year is not sitting on a couch and eating potato chips. What you want to do does not matter. You need to think of what it is you are going to do.” – Ford
What makes a successful gap year?
“When a student takes a gap year to do something meaningful, and for all the right reasons, [the gap year is successful]. Ask yourself, will it impact your life? What is your end result? As long as students are really following something they are interested in, the gap year will be rewarding.” – Fahrney
What kinds of students do you believe are best suited for a gap year?
“There is not a particular kind of student that is best suited for a gap year. It’s not based on the grades of a student, either. A gap year is best for a student who wants to experience something outside the normal academic realm.” – Ford
“A gap year is very personal. You could be the brightest student, but unless you have a calling, it might not be your thing. A gap year could be for students who are unsure about the path they wish to take in college. Although it is a personal decision, parents should be involved too.” – Fahrney
Approximately what percentage of a class does a gap year?
“It feels like just ten years ago, only a couple of kids chose to take a gap year. Among last year’s Class of 2014, there are nine students who took a gap year. The numbers are getting much higher because of the required National Service in Singapore. However, approximately 99% of a graduating goes straight to university.” – Ford
Please elaborate on any personal opinions you have regarding gap years.
“I am a bit traditional, so typically I say, ‘If you get into college, go on to college!’” – Fahrney