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Harvard Student Thankful For Gap Year Experience

A Harvard junior recently contacted me to let me know that he appreciated my belief in the value of a gap year.  He offered to write a guest post recounting his experiences and sharing his “dos and don’ts” for mapping out a plan for a year off between high school and college. I’m happy to share his post with you.

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1309790130gap-year-mediaAfter a grueling four years, I was finally able to limp to the finish line and put a cap on my four year high school career. The college admissions process had come to a close months before and the coursework had subsided, but I was still feeling bogged down. I was burnt out- schoolwork became a dread and I was feeling rundown. The thought of another four years of education created feelings of anxiety, not excitement. It was at this point I started considering taking a year off, a “gap year” as it has come to be called.

My gap year provided me a time to decompress and refocus for the upcoming years of study. During the year I kept myself busy- I worked as a line cook in a Mexican restaurant, a laborer at a landscaping company, and an intern at the Massachusetts State House. All of these experiences offered unique experiences, and subsequently lessons- lessons I would not have been afforded had I not taken a gap year. On top of being able to decompress, I was able to make money as well as boost my resume.

While gap years have risen in popularity, I still believe some people are against the practice. I admit I had some trepidation about taking a year off, which derived from the unwillingness of me to “waste” a year of my life. I believed that by putting my academic career on hold would somehow put me behind my peers. In retrospect, I can honestly say I couldn’t have been more wrong. I entered college with a hunger to learn and appreciate my surroundings. Taking a step back provides you with an opportunity to take an honest look at the future and appreciate the opportunities set out before you. During my time off, I was able to learn the do’s and don’ts of gap years:

DO:

  • Take the odd job. I learned valuable lessons while working outside of my comfort zone. I was able to learn a lot about myself by being in situations outside of my comfort zone. These have allowed me to navigate my college career with enhanced wisdom- a luxury afforded by my gap year.
  • Relax. The social and physical toll of a demanding high school career is large. Don’t be afraid to take a day to watch Netflix, and do a whole lot of nothing. You earned it, and if you’re like me, you need it.

DON’T:

Get complacent, especially at the start. When I decided to finally take the gap year, I got complacent at the beginning, figuring “I’m taking a WHOLE YEAR off, I have some time to think about what I want to do.” However, the next time I thought about it, it was already January, and I had closed myself off to a variety of opportunities- -especially in relation to travelling.

 

Colin Smith
BA Candidate in Sociology and Economics
Harvard College Class of 2015

 

PS:  To avoid spam, I haven’t included Colin’s contact information.  But if you’d like to reach him, send me a note from my contact page and I’ll hook you up with him!  Or you can check out his LinkedIn profile.  

 

 

 

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Sounds like your gap year was anything but a waste! Thank you for sharing your experience.

  2. “Hi, I’m interning with AdmitSee.com, which pays you to share your old college application essays & advice. Thought you might be interested–you get paid every time an applicant views your profile. Totally anonymous and only takes minutes. : )

Trackbacks

  1. […] Most obviously, students who take gap years get to figure out what they do and do not want to do with their college experience, experience less academic burnout since they aren’t going immediately from 12 years of […]

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