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.
After 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:
- 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.
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.
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.