So You Think You Need Time Off Of School...
In April of 2017, I was a senior in high school. I had gone through a long college admissions process like the typical american teen. We toured schools, ate in dining halls, wrote countless essays, took standardized tests over again, and payed lots of application fees. I was fortunate enough to be accepted to the school that I wanted to go to along with a few others, and big decisions fell into my hands.
In that month, I decided to defer my admission to Case Western Reserve University in order to gain work experience, travel, volunteer, relax, and pursue healing from my eating disorder without the stress of college on my shoulders.
This was the most valuable experience of my life.
I felt in my bones that I was not ready to leave home yet. I wasn’t ready to live in a new city with all new people. It wasn’t a normal apprehensive type of feeling, because those things are scary for everyone. It was more of a deeper understanding that I needed more support than what college was going to give me, so I decided to stay home.
I am what they call a “self-starter” which means that there was really never an empty moment in my gap year. I worked full time between a few jobs, became a certified yoga instructor, taught yoga, volunteered at many different places, shadowed jobs, learned a LOT about coffee, spent time with family, started my blog, wrote part of a memoir (that I have no clue if I will ever publish). Needless to say I was on the GO despite not being enrolled in school.
There are a few fears and misconceptions about gap years/semesters that I personally experienced that I want to clear up.
If I take time off of school… I will be behind.
I’d like to start out with: behind what???? Okay yes technically I will graduate a year later than some of my peers but at the same time not everyone does a four year program, and not everyone graduates, and also WHO CARES? I will graduate when I am 23 years old instead of 22… not a big deal at all.
I might never go to college.
I guess I understand the logic here. Basically there is the fear that if you take time off of school, you will never go back because you be content with not having school work to do. I think this really depends on the student. I personally was itching to go back to school after 15 months off because I was bored and ready to go, kinda like that feeling in August when you have done all the summer things that there are to do and you just want to have some structure. Taking time off of school made me want to go more than ever before.
I will forget how to learn.
A few people in my life were genuinely concerned that I was going to forget how to read, write, do math, hold a pencil, etc. I think this is valid because sometimes after not doing school work for a while, you can be a little rusty. However, I wasn’t just watching netflix on the couch for a year, I was doing job trainings and learning life skills every single day, just not the kinds of things you take exams on. By the time that I started classes again, I still knew how to hold a pencil, so don’t waste worries on that one.
People are going to think bad things about me.
I was nervous that my friends and family were going to think that I was stupid or incompetent, or even lazy, for not being ready to go to college. The truth of the matter is that your personal affairs (mental and physical health) are your business, and they’re way more important than going to college at any time. If you feel like you need time off of school in order to regain normal functioning, that is OKAY. Seek healing over all else, because you cannot be the best version of yourself unless you are mentally and physically cared for.
If you have a reason brewing in your head as to why a gap year or semester sounds like a good idea, write down some pros and cons, do some research, assess your options.
Taking a gap year allowed me to grow in ways that college could not have provided for me at that time in my life, and I honestly can’t imagine what my life would look like if I didn’t. I think it can be extremely beneficial and not enough students know that it is an option.