Graduating early opens new avenues


Carleigh Thrower

baccccccWhile most upperclassmen are starting their last grueling decisions for college and further education, some students choose to bypass this often long and dreadful process and take a year off after graduating high school.
According to a study by the Higher Education Research Institute, an estimated 1.2 percent of first-time college freshmen in the United States deferred their admission to take a gap year in 2011.
The top two reasons for making the decision to take a gap year are a burnout from the competitive pressure of high school and a desire “to find out more about themselves,” according to a survey from the American Gap Association.
RBHS 2012 alumna, Bess Goodfellow, graduated after her junior year of high school in order to take a gap year before starting college in order to spend some time studying abroad. She has spent the past year living in Turkey, which is helping her discover more about herself.
“Taking a gap year has been a really positive experience for me,” Goodfellow said. “I’ve gotten to explore myself and the world. I’ve learned so much about culture, life and a totally different part of the world. I understand myself better, and it’s helping me figure out what I want to do with my life.”
Though Goodfellow does not regret her decision to take a gap year, she said it’s not for everyone. In addition to losing friendships back home, Goodfellow said immersion in a foreign culture can be very stressful.
RBHS guidance counselor Lynne Moore agrees that there are negatives to taking a gap year, including losing motivation and slacking off; however, she said depending on the person and situation, taking a year off can be a much needed change.
“As with most things, it really depends a lot on the individual person. I think that taking a year off can be a positive thing for a student if they are doing something worthwhile, like study abroad, a volunteer program, a mission for their church, etc.,” Moore said. “These kind of experiences can mature a student and help them be more ready and focused in college. They can also help them determine what career they want.”
RBHS 2012 alumna Sarah Miera chose to take the year off after graduating in order to work full-time and save up for college in the following years. After taking the year off, she worked full-time at Arby’s and got the chance to have a more leisurely lifestyle that she might not have had otherwise if she would have gone straight into college after high school.
“I’ve gotten to do other things since being off school,” Miera said. “I’ve gotten to work more and just have more free time that I didn’t have while I was in high school.”
Taking time off might provide a more quiet lifestyle, but it also might be harder to get back into the swing of things by the time you are ready to pursue higher levels of education, Moore said.
Straight out of high school, students have 12 or more years of continuous education under their belt that help prepare them for college; however, those students who take a year off after high school might find it harder to maintain the same study habits they might have once had, Moore said.
“I think that students that take a year off to work and save money for college need to be very motivated to go to college,” Moore said. “It is sometimes hard to quit working and start the routine of going to school and having to study again.”
By Carleigh Thrower