Gap year: more options after high school

Gap year fair allows students to explore post-high school options

On Jan. 25, New Trier hosted the 2020 USA Gap Year Fair which introduced seniors to other post-high school options besides going straight to college.

In the US, gap years have garnered the reputation of being a time when high school grads waste their time and money traveling, but several organizations have sought to change this. They seek to guide students as they mature, choose a major, or build memorable experiences.

Senior Julian Hansen is among those who are curious what other possible avenues lie ahead besides immediately becoming a college freshman.

“I just wanted to explore options for next year, decide if I want to go to college or take a gap year” said Hansen.

Though the student’s interest in a gap year is important, parents’ support also plays an important role. While things like scholarships and cheaper gap years do exist, it isn’t free to have a company plan out your schedule for an entire year, something parents undoubtedly must take into account.

“My parents wanted me to come

[to the Gap Year Fair] because we were talking about taking a gap year before I start college” said junior Kelly Sheridan.

Post-high school counselor Gretchen Stauder emphasized that not all gap years are expensive, despite that being a common turn-off for parents.

“Parents and family have to be on board, and I think the biggest misconception is that gap years must cost a lot of money,” said Stauder.

Only about 1.5% of students who graduate from New Trier will take a gap year, a diminutive amount considering the amount of people who are not completely sure about their path forward. Thus, New Trier’s post-high school counseling service is supportive of the idea.

“I think it would be a great opportunity for any student. I’ve never had a student in my career who has come back and said ‘I wish that I hadn’t taken a gap year,’” claimed Stauder.

Acknowledging the fact that not every student will be open to taking a gap year, the range of people that can benefit from it is broad. Anyone who simply wants to do something different or go off the established path would benefit from a gap year, according to Stauder.

While post-high school experiences are generally positive, alumni who have taken gap years are more detailed about why many claim gap years to be valuable.

Alum Drew Beasley, currently a sophomore at DePaul, spent his gap year travelling around the world. He attributes a successful gap year to having the motivation to make it successful.

“I made real human connections with the people I travelled with, and the locals I met along the way,” said Beasley.

Another facet of gap years, not as regaled as the growth and self- discovery aspect, is the way that they can be used to aid those with a different experience in finding the best way to adjust to independent life.

“We think that when you graduate, you’re young, and you might not be sure if you’re ready for four years of college or the workforce,” said Brittney Howell, a representative of Soar, a program that caters to youth and young adults with ADHD or other learning disorders.

While the school’s opinion on gap years is supportive of the option, there is still doubt among parents and students about its validity. With this in mind, those who have taken a gap year tend to report that they end up happy with their choice.

“Your gap year isn’t going to be the adventure of a lifetime, it’s going to be the first step to making your life an adventure” said Beasley.