Not ready for college? You’re not alone. Every year, around 350 SAS seniors put on a blue (or maroon) cap and gown, dress up in some of the nicest clothes they own, and walk up a podium to receive their diploma – the thing they have been working towards for 12 years of school.
Then, most leave the home they have known for years for the calling of higher education.
However, there are the exceptions – the students who choose to go beyond the normal route of a quick transition from high school to college and instead take a “gap year.”
Shannon Johnston, Anya Carion, Tamara Dibbb and Daniel Kitzman are all SAS graduates who decided to take a gap year.
Shannon’s plan for her gap year was to travel, but those plans ended up changing and she stayed in Singapore and decided to get some work experience instead. “I find myself quite lucky where I am. I fund myself and I’ve worked my way up, which not many 18 year olds have had the chance to do.”
Shannon has had the opportunity to learn how to live an independent life and also been able to prioritize things in her life that she wasn’t able to before. She is able to buy things that she wanted when she wanted and even make more time to see her friends and family.
Many people believe that you have to go to college right after you graduate, but that is changing. According to American Gap, “gap year students have an opportunity to apply the past 12 years of academic classroom knowledge to relevant experiences and studies – thus gaining clarity about career ambition both favorable and unfavorable.”
Today taking a gap year is seen as a positive step for many students. Approximately 88 percent have concluded that that their gap year has significantly added to their employability and 90 percent of students who have taken a gap year have ended up going to college within a year.
By taking the gap year you are able to become more well-rounded, gain some maturity, and have unique experiences that others might not have. The academic benefits of taking a gap year include becoming more motivated for college, going to college with a purpose, becoming more employable, and having something to write about in college essays.
“I’ve changed a lot and figured out a lot about my future and where I’d like to be in it. I definitely don’t regret my decision to take a gap year; I think it’s the best decision I’ve made so far,” Anya said.
The reasons students take gap years are as varied as the students themselves. Some take a gap year to either find themselves, have a breather before they have to go to school again, or even to do something they love – like travel the world.
“Taking this gap year was beneficial because this is really one of the last time you can go out and and explore the world before you become a ‘grown up’ and have real world responsibilities,” Tamara said. Tamara took a gap year because she is planning to go to a university in Perth and in Australia, they have a different school schedule. So instead of starting school halfway through the year, she chose to wait six months before starting. During her gap (half) year she has been doing some travelling, working, and spending time with her family.
“The thing about taking a gap year is that it has its perks but also its flaws. I’ve been able to grow as a person and figure out who I am and who I want to be, but the downside of this is that everything I want to do during my gap year I might not be able to do because it cost a lot of money. My gap year has shown me what the real life is like,” said Shannon.
Anya took a gap year because she felt as if people are rushed to go into college and she didn’t want to miss out on experiences and goals of hers that she wanted to complete. Since graduation, Anya has been backpacking in Europe and Nepal and later on this month she is leaving to go backpacking in Australia and Southeast Asia.
“I think the most challenging thing that has happened to me so far during my backpacking experiences would have to be being away from my family, because I am experiencing and seeing all these beautiful places but I wish I could share them with my family as well,” Anya said.
Anya, Shannon, and Tamara don’t regret their decisions to take a gap year – in fact they are happy they did. “Even though taking a gap year may not be for everyone, I still think that people should take a gap year just so they can accomplish any goals or do something they love during that year,” Anya said.
People have an idea of what a gap year is – work a part-time job and or even travel around the world and have fun. However, Daniel Kitzman, an SAS alum decided to take a different route. He joined the Marines. “I decided to join because I never want things to be easy. I always want a challenge. So I decided to do the hardest thing possible and join the Marine Corps.”
Daniel is a field radio operator, which means he helps the troops on the ground talk to the command center. He knew at this time that he wouldn’t take school seriously at this time because he doesn’t know what exactly what he wants to do long term. “This will give me a few years to mature, learn a trade that I can make good money at, and decide what exactly I want to do instead of wasting money and majors,” Daniel said.
So far during his first year in the military he has learned how to shoot several weapons, everything from heavy machine guns to grenade launchers. Daniel said, “ I have basically lived call of duty and had opportunities to visit places of the world I have never been to before.”
After Daniel’s time in the Marines he plans to use his four free years of college to become a pediatrician.
Are you second guessing yourself with your college decision? Not sure about what you want to do with your life? Scared or think you aren’t ready for college? Maybe taking a gap year is the choice for you. From hiking Mount Everest to gaining work experience, SAS alumni have done it all, and so can you.