Gap-year becomes growing trend among college students

By Mallory Terrence
February 21, 2008


Shortly after graduating high school in 2005, Amy Karwoski moved to New York City to continue her modeling career. While her high school friends spent their last summer together preparing for college, Karwoski was figuring out life in the city and occupied with work. By the time Karwoski’s friends left for freshman orientation, she was in Paris for fashion week.

“My passion was to model, travel and be involved in the fashion industry. I missed my best friends from high school, but I loved what I was doing,” Karwoski, freshman business administration major, said.

The trend of taking time off between high school and college is growing more popular among students, being called the ‘gap-year.’ The option of a gap year is commonly practiced in Britain, where universities and parents not only accept that students take a gap year but it is often expected. Even Prince William went to Australia before continuing his studies.

Karwoski always knew she wanted go to college, but just wasn’t sure when. This is the feeling of many students who need a break from their education and find the years after high school would be better spent traveling the world, volunteering, learning a foreign language or jumping into the job market to check out potential careers.

“I learned a lot about myself from living on my own, traveling and experiencing diverse cultures. Living in Tokyo was by far the best life experience. The Japanese culture is so different, it was a complete culture shock, but it was amazing,” Karwoski, said.

Not only are more students considering deferring college, but also now there is an industry promoting it and offering great programs and opportunities for students. While some programs are free, others cost upward of $40,000, making it possible for people of all economic backgrounds to have time to explore the world and themselves before entering college.

Harvard is among the colleges embracing the idea. Bill Fitzsimmons is the Harvard admissions dean and the author of an essay promoting the gap year called “Time Out or Burn out for the Next Generation.” According to Fitzsimmons, about 40 students admitted to Harvard each year decide to defer admission.

But the aggressive pressure to attend college stops some students from even considering a break. Radnor High School guidance counselors said most of their students go right off to college after receiving their high school degree, but industry experts say the number of students taking a gap year is increasing.

“I genuinely missed learning. I had a lot of great experiences while traveling and modeling, and I learned a lot of things that can’t be pulled from a textbook. But I missed reading, solving problems and just challenging myself in general.” Karwoski said.

Some question a person’s ability to take time off of their education and then return years later. While Harvey Lape, a philosophy professor, feels returning students are more motivated and come back because they truly want to continue their education. Based on his own experiences, being forced to stop schooling to join the military, Lape had retained all his knowledge and even became a better student.

Although Karwoski did not find it difficult to return to a classroom setting after three years away, she is truly enjoying her time at Cabrini and focusing on her education for now.

Mallory Terrence

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