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Is a gap semester for a recent high school graduate a bad idea?

I think a gap semester offers the student a better chance to experience the world and help find his passion in life which would make his life easier afterwards

  • Mar 26 2014: Ahmed, Something new to experiment with. My lucky day.
    Never heard of the phrase "gap semester", but too old to know the difference.

    A guess that it means taking a time out from schooling. Hope I'm right.

    Left High School shortly after my sophomore year had started and joined the Air Force.
    9 months in Korea and then 2+years in Japan, "on-call" 24/7, to fly around the far east
    repairing "downed communications" when a serious storm had passed through.

    Upon return to the US, I was stationed on top a low mountain in Vermont.
    The commanding officer decided I needed to return to complete my schooling, so he
    sent me to the local High School to get my diploma. Being much older than the rest
    of the students, and applied myself much differently than in earlier school days.
    Graduation came with high grades and my commanding officer preened.

    Sold on education, life was made better for it. Afterwards, I've created 21 different
    businesses, and today spent 14 hours at my computer, working on developing a program
    to handicap horseraces and find the winner, before the race is run. Then 2 hours shooting
    3 and 4 cushion bank shots, teaching other senior citizens how to lose a snooker game
    called Golf.

    A gap semester might be a good idea.
    Perhaps with a wider gap, filled with a walk-about.?
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      Mar 26 2014: Gap year is a year intermission between graduating high school and going to college.
      • Mar 29 2014: I am a bit surprised that this subject received so little response.
        Thank you for your prior apt leadership and current explanation.
        You seem to be one of the most level headed commentators I've read.
        Oh, that's the dog's picture. Sorry. (Mom always said I was a devil.)
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          Mar 29 2014: But I think the questioner got thoughtful advice from different perspectives. (And yes, the dog has a beautiful if uncommon head shape- very flat on top but also in profile. You should see her right now, the top of her head, her forehead, her nose and her mouth form an almost flat plane as she sleeps.
  • Apr 1 2014: Great question but tough to answer. A period of time in one's life devoted to exploration and discovery of oneself and the world around them sounds good. Also a period of time in one's life to relax is also a nice thing. I can only speak for myself, in that too much down time makes me unhappy and too much exploration and discovery makes me too unrooted and heady. I like being productive, having meaningful experiences and also just enjoying life. I also like waiting until I'm inspired to pursue something like a degree. I've often wondered what it would be like if I didn't go to college until I actually understood the value of it and wanted to learn for a specific reason. But I'm also glad I went relatively soon after I graduated and pushed through it.

    To conclude I think if one is taking the gap year to avoid something it should be reconsidered. If one is taking a gap year because they think that is what they need, then I'm sure it can be a very good thing.
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    Mar 29 2014: As someone who previously worked in higher education I can tell you anecdotally that the students who took a gap year prior to attending college came in much more prepared and mature. Having spoken with them about the topic frequently I believe that a gap year when used appropriately can be a tremendous investment into oneself, and that this benefit can outweigh its cost.

    Too many students jump into college program as the thing they are supposed to do after high school with no real consideration for the future impact it will have on them, and many students end up jumping between majors or completely multiple majors because of this lack of intention at the start of their college career.

    As @Brandi pointed out however many Gap years are wasted by sitting around with no exploration of the world and no further consideration about the future. However when the year is used for such exploration through things such as travel, work, apprenticeships or other forms of personal development it can change the outcome of the college experience for the student.

    Many people will point out that taking a gap year is the equivalent of giving up one year of your top earning salary however I always encourage such thinkers to explore that a gap year also can increase the number of years at your top salary if it were to be the cause of you not doing a second degree.
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    Mar 26 2014: My point of view is that of someone who, due to injury, wound up with a gap year between High School and College.
    II would never suggest a gap year/ semester unless there were concrete plans of experiential internship, study abroad, or even apprenticeship. A year to bum around, or review the options available is rarely if ever beneficial, momentum is important to completing a degree!
    I found myself not investing enough in jobs and relationships during this time due to the ever present knowledge that I would be leaving soon for college. Years later, after completing my degree and many years in a fulfilling career, that time feels wasted.
    Also, more than a few college acquaintances took time off and never returned, at least 3 of whom had less than a year of courses remaining. Again, momentum has value in completing anything. The relationships you form with your classmates will be effected by an absence.
    The impact a gap has on the curriculum flow is very important to consider as well, it may required additional time spent to make-up classes only offered in certain seasons.
    If productive experiences are set-up before the gap is taken it may help to re-focus the person, but I would still caution anyone considering a gap without obvious purpose.
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    Mar 25 2014: Gap years have become increasingly popular. The value of a gap year depends on what you are able to arrange to do with your time, either by way of an internship or service opportunity or through your own initiative and self-direction.
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    Apr 1 2014: A gap semester can be good or bad depending on the person and how they utilize that time.
    For a person who shows no motivation and expresses a bad attitude towards school it may be pointless and a waste of money to go straight to college.
    The individual needs to make that choice.

    Imagine a gap semester while still in high school where you submit a plan for the time and utilize it to intern somewhere, travel, sit in on a few college courses, etc... so that the student is better prepared at graduation to decide on a course for college.
  • Mar 31 2014: its a bad idea
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    Mar 31 2014: The answer to this question depends upon the person. When I was in college - a l-o-n-g time ago - I was very aware that some of my classmates were not making good use of their time there. Some had little or no idea what they really wanted to do, beyond make money, and some didn't even really want to do that. Some had poor attitudes towards life, work, themselves, others. Some were more focused on socializing and partying. Some were there because they didn't know what else to do with themselves.

    Some of us were very focused and knew what we wanted to do and it was good for us to have gone directly from high school to college. And for many of us, we had already gotten some serious life experience in our fields of interest, which helped a lot in college.

    I think it's very valuable to go into college with some serious life and work experience to provide context for one's studies; something to help make them feel real and relevant. Unfortunately, as has been noted by others here, some who might take a break between high school and college will also take a break from life and not do anything very helpful for inspiring them and providing context and experience to build on when they do continue their educations. It can also be challenging to actually find an opportunity to gain valuable work experience with the economy still struggling as it is. Many of the available jobs don't really provide the kind of experience that would be most valuable.

    One possibly good option for many would be to go from high school to a vocational or technical school or enter an apprenticeship program to learn a trade. Then one could work in one's trade for a while and later go to college, or maybe even go right from their trade education into a college education. The practical "grounding" provided by this experience could be very helpful for many while pursuing a higher education.
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    Mar 30 2014: I did not take a gap year. Philosophy professor talked to me after class one day. He said if you don't need to be here, don't be here. Then did a 4 year gap. Went back to community college, did the work, almost got associate. Now another gap.
    In the 4 year gap did a lot of things I wanted to do. If I had less wants, then maybe would have done the schoolwork right after high school.
    Decreasing wants may decrease need for gap year. How to decrease wants in life? Difficult task. Probably requires independence, avoidance and solitude.
  • Mar 29 2014: I would like to see more alternatives to traditional college for students graduating high school and those opportunities would help students to gain maturity and find what they are truly interested in studying before that major financial and life directing decision to enter college.

    Few students at 18-19 have a real idea of what they want to do with their lives and are often pushed into a course of study by their parents or they choose something because their friends are going to be in their classes or maybe because it will pay a lot of money or be easy.

    Those are bad reasons for choosing a college degree and if their were more intern programs for these young people so they could try different avenues in life they would make a better decision on what courses in college to take and instead of focusing on a single degree outlined by the university.

    College degrees are only a stepping stone and gets your foot in the door for a job and often is a wasted 4-6 years when the young person gets that degree and then realizes that is not what they really wanted to do with heir lives.

    Only 27 percent of college graduates work in their field of study!
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    Mar 29 2014: For many high school graduates, yes. At least a year during which a passion can be pursued, can be the making of someone who might otherwise be lacking in focus, identity and self-worth.

    I think one of the most valuable gifts parents can give to their children is the gift of autonomy and self-sufficiency - and to embrace the idea that children, in pursuing such freedom for a year or more, will return with healthier bonds with their parents and others, and less likely to be rooted in dependency.

    As Frank alluded to below, it is very similar in principle to the Australian Aboriginal 'Walkabout' or Native American 'Vision Quest' - a traditional rite of passage under the guidance of an elder, where boys 'find the inner man' after spending up to six months using nothing but his own wits in the wilderness. For graduates, it obviously doesn't have to be the experience wilderness. It would just be to experience first-hand what the world is like 'out there', and what to do to survive in it. I'm 100% certain it works for girls too...

    I'd go so far as to say that gap years should be an essential rite of passage for students who request them - but with guidance and purpose to find the 'passion' that the year would hopefully give to them.

    A gap year just sitting around in front of the TV will be of no benefit whatsoever.
  • Mar 28 2014: I think it depends on the individual. Some need the break to decompress and others decompress too much and lose the drive.
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    Mar 27 2014: Ahmed, I think it is an excelent idea but I think that it should be after the college sophomore year.

    My logic is that we have stages in life. In our teens we are expermenting and developing ... we graduate high school with basic skills and a unclear future .... I personally think this continues for the first two years of college ... at the age of 21 we begin to think seriously about the future and our place in it ... we are considering skill sets that will define our future ... we are considering relationships that move from superficial to perment comitments.

    It is at this time I think we need the time to reflect and understand who we are and where we are going ... we have left childhood and are embarking on adult decisions and consequesnces.

    I think this is the time to take the break ... from 20 to 21 or 21 to 22. As Fritzie says how you spend this time is important. You can spend it doing a internship, service opportunity, travel, or a mission for your church .... when you return to school your batteries will be recharged and hopefully will have a sense of direction.

    A break to soon would result in partying, expermenting with alcohol, and maybe drugs .... I would recommend staying on the path through this time in many peoples lives .... what you are seeking is maturity ... 21 to 22 will be the better opportunity.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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    Mar 26 2014: It depends on what you do with the gap year.
    It could be fruitful, it could be a waste of time and life.