↪ Taking Time Off After High School: A Win For Young People
Abigail Falik contends that taking a year off after high school to gain real-world experience helps young people develop an edge in the competitive college admissions process and ultimately makes them more focused and motivated students. She cites public service opportunities in developing countries as the primary example of the type of work that is most beneficial.
While I agree taking time off after high school is a fantastic idea for exposing young people to real-world realities they are largely sheltered from in high school and college and for allowing them to explore career opportunities before committing to an educational path, I don’t think public service is necessarily the best course for most people. The purpose of taking time off before college should be to make one’s college years more efficient. Sure, serving underprivileged communities in foreign countries is a noble endeavor, but those experiences shouldn’t be used mainly as a vehicle for pumping up one’s college application. And they don’t necessarily encourage people to be more focused in college.
Using a “gap year” or two to work as an apprentice in a field that one is considering as a future career is a way to hone one’s interests or rule out fields that are not a good fit. It also provides a chance for young people to learn a few lessons about managing money and may help defray the costs of higher education, if they continue on to college. Some people even learn of opportunities that don’t require taking on the burden of a four-year (or more) education.
It may not be exactly a “win-win” like Ms. Falik suggests, as students entering college with concrete working experience and a sharper focus may be less likely to flounder in school and pour more and more money into colleges’ pockets. Providing a financial benefit to universities isn’t the main point of higher education, after all.