As May has begun, the senior class of 2022 is less than one month away from graduating high school and stepping into the real world. The pressing question is, of course, “What are your plans after high school?” While this is an expected question for a senior, there’s also a certain stigma around it, too. What most people expect you to say is “going to college”, but what about the people whose answer isn’t “going to college”?
In today’s society, while the stigma surrounding it is fading, there seems to be an expectation for people to go to college right out of high school, despite the plethora of options that young adults have.
As someone who wanted to enter college undecided, I always got mixed reactions; some would say that it’s a smart thing to do so that I can explore my options, while others ridiculed the idea because it was a “waste of money”. Anytime I would talk about college, nothing ever felt like the right answer. As I’m a month away from graduating and still have no idea what I would want to major in, I’ve decided I don’t need to go to college right away.
I wish somebody had explained to me the option of deferring my application to take a gap year. I had no idea this was even an option, because I’ve only ever heard, “college, trade school, or straight into the workforce”. While I obviously knew gap years were a thing, I never really knew what someone could do in a gap year other than work. That being said, I believe that society needs to broaden its perspective and promote, maybe even encourage, gap years for students.
Not only does a gap year give some time off from school (most of the time), it is really another great tool for mental health, time to focus on yourself, and get your life together. I just feel like too often that one specific way of life, such as going to college straight out of high school, is forced.
There are many great programs out there, like many sponsored by the United Nations or other programs that you can explore in the United States or abroad. Some colleges and universities even give you a scholarship if you partake in those programs.
When I brought up the idea of a gap year to a few adults, they weren’t extremely optimistic until I told them I wanted to do a federal volunteer program during that time. While I appreciate their support, I think these reactions only prove my point further, that gap years for students are not traditionally accepted.
What I’m doing, and what I wish was talked about more, is AmeriCorps. It is a US government agency that engages volunteers in service within the United States. I will travel the West Coast for 10 months being assigned different jobs and opportunities, while hopefully being able to figure out what to do with my life when I come out of it.
Nothing is wrong with going to college right away, but I do believe it is something that is pushed onto high school students without presenting other alternatives. Some want to go to college undecided and some have their whole life planned out, but I do believe that schools should put more emphasis on the world of opportunities people have once they leave high school.