The moment senior year of high school rolls around, the only question that appears to be on the lips of every adult is, “Where are you going to college?”
It was jarring for me personally when first approached with this question, sometime during my junior year of high school.
At the time, college had only recently become a subject to start seriously considering and people were already wanting a complete layout of my life plan.
What many people don’t appear to realize is that this push for college so soon after wrapping up high school can lead students to making hurried and often rash decisions.
I may be happy with my college choice but there are plenty who aren’t.
Many young adults jump into the rigor of a college schedule because they don’t feel like they have another choice and it often leads them to be extremely unhappy, causing them to drop out and waste thousands of dollars.
Society assumes college is the natural next step to take after high school, looking down on non-attendees as the “less educated” sort, which influences young adults to continue with their education.
While college remains an important step in most careers, this route doesn’t have to be the only one popularized and it shouldn’t.
Before starting my senior year of high school, I seriously considered taking a gap year in Sweden after I graduated.
Aside from wanting to work on my language skills, I felt I needed to figure out exactly what I wanted to do next.
College was definitely in my future but I was unsure what direction I would take when I got there.
My parents ended up convincing me that it would be much cheaper to study abroad through a college program but I can’t help wondering if taking a year off from study would have helped organize my options.
Many would argue that that is what college is for, figuring out careers and plans for the future.
Looking at the many programs at schools across the nation, there’s no doubt that this is a viable and encouraged option.
But students are encouraged to do this on top of homework, on-campus or off-campus jobs, and participating in student organizations to keep their social life active.
It’s a lot to keep up.
Gap years, while seemingly a far-fetched idea to those in the United States, are actually extremely popular across Europe.
It’s not uncommon for young adults to take a year, or even a few, to travel or work before returning to the school setting.
Aside from giving them time to take a mental break from studying, gap years allow individuals to grow and help develop global perspectives before taking their next step in life.
Seeing the world from a different point of view can really change your ideas of what career would best fit you.
This is much better than waiting until your junior year to travel abroad through a college program.
Gap years don’t have to involve travel, they can simply be a chance to grow the amount of money in your bank account and work on different responsibilities without having to worry about classes on the side.
One of my friends I graduated high school with enrolled in one of the local universities only to drop out about a semester later because he was failing most of his classes.
This had nothing to do with how smart he was, because he had plenty of brains, but rather his lack of preperation and motivation to jump from one kind of school into another.
He realized college wasn’t where he needed to be quite yet and that taking a year off to work would help him figure out where he should go next.
The above example is one of many cases where young adults follow the trail of their peers because they’re not aware of another path and end up stumbling along the way.
Promoting the idea of gap years would lessen the stress of this big decision because the type of college students choose really does affect where they end up farther down the road.
Let’s stop urging students to grow up faster than they’re capable of because their confidence and mental health at the peak of their career is more important than how fast they get there.