Popularity of Gap Year Growing

Freshman Mae Gayle Dalton delayed entering college to help take care of her mother.

Allison Turner

Freshman Mae Gayle Dalton delayed entering college to help take care of her mother.

Allison Turner, Multimedia Editor

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While some high school seniors are stressing out about preparing to go off to college immediately after graduation, there is a growing trend of students that are taking a year off before continuing their educations. Even former President Barack Obama’s daughter, Malia Obama, took a gap year before becoming a student at Harvard University last year. The trend is also popular in other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, and the number of “gappers” continues to rise.

Some students decide to work for a year in order to save money to pay for college. Others decide to travel the world and gain life experiences to help them find out who they are, who they want to be and what they want to do with their futures. Each person has his or her individual reason for making the decision to take a year before continuing to higher education.

For Mae Gayle Dalton, a freshman at Averett University, the decision was made when her mom had open-heart surgery the summer after she graduated from George Washington High School in Danville. She did work some, but she also spent time at home to help take care of her mom before deciding to come to Averett.

“I always wanted to further my education,” Dalton said. “My mom got where she could do things on her own again and eventually went back to work.”

For most high school students that are considering a gap year, their main concern is the reaction from their parents. However, that wasn’t an issue for Dalton and adjusting back into school was just as easy.

“I had planned to go to college right after high school, so I was very anxious to start school,” she said. “I feel I may have forgotten some information I learned in high school but nothing too crazy

There is also a number of gap year programs available to students who decide to take a break from school before attending college. A survey conducted in 2014 by the American Gap Association found that 63% of people surveyed had participated in at least one during their gap year. The survey also found that 81% of people that had taken a gap year would recommend it to others considering it.

While it’s true that some students who decide to take gap years don’t return to school, the American Gap Association reported that up to 90% of students do. They also found that students felt that their gap years had helped them develop as people, gave them time for personal reflection, and increased their maturity. Interestingly, the students that had taken gap years also performed better academic upon returning to school and were primarily A and B students according to the association’s survey.

The important thing to remember is that everyone has his or her own path and for some people, it means taking time off between high school and college to pursue other interests. Gaining life experiences, inside or outside of college, is what being a young adult is about and “gappers” find that through working jobs to support themselves, traveling the world and helping others or just taking a break from academics before heading into at least four more years of studying.