The Gap Year: A Time of Possibility

This article was written by Biruk Alfarone, a student in Journalism class.

Correction: a previous version of this article misspelled Liza Semler’s name incorrectly as Semlar.

 

The topic of gap years is confronted by teachers, and students in this article. As the interviewees give their opinions on gap years and what they mean for students.

 

Liza Semler, a teacher at U-32, headlines this discussion of what gap years could mean for students, “It’s a year of exploration for people outside of school, or work,” said Liza.

 

Liza made it her mission to take a year abroad after schooling. Gap years, in her past experience show they take a lot of time and effort, applying for a grant while in college.

 

Gap years showed Liza it can be challenging for students to think about life after high school. It’s crucial that they plan for after the gap year, whether that be college or some other route. “After your gap year, it can be harder to use the resources from your high school like counselors and teachers,” said Liza.

 

Liza during her study abroad. (Liza Semler)

 

Gap years are alluring for students and a little scary for parents because of the misconceptions. According to Liza, some people think it’s a year of not doing anything. Liza said, “They might use some of those experiences from their gap year to kind of get more out of college.”

 

However, 12th graders requiring the structure of school isn’t anything new, it’s what they’ve been doing their whole lives. It’s also hard for a student to be independently minded at that stage in their life while still living in their parents’ home.

A statistical chart of earnings and unemployment rates based on educational attainment in U-32 Student Services. (Biruk Alfarone/Chronicle)

 

Jamie Spector, a social worker at U-32, has these uncomfortable conversations more than most, and she has insight on what gap years can be. “Do you want to get a job, do you want to apprentice in a certain trade? Do you want to travel the world?” said Jamie.

 

However, Jamie didn’t take the traditional gap year route, like Liza Semler, she went to college and did a year abroad. 

 

Jamie’s job of working with students and families brought up the theme of change. Big decisions and big changes can be hard on students. “It’s good to really affirm people and help them regain a sense that change is possible,” said Jamie. 

 

For students, there’s a lot to consider when making these changes. In Jamie’s experience with gap years her friends embarked on their own path, taking classes at the Community College of Vermont to better understand themselves, then a year living on their own working and paying bills.

 

Gap years may sound different to people who favor a more traditional route. Taking time off of school shouldn’t be so easily dismissed by parents or students, and the misconceptions make them seem that way to parents. “I think they fear that if you don’t go straight to college, you wouldn’t go at all,” said Jamie.

 

On the other hand, gap years could make students want to hightail their way into college. It’s an experience that shows the grittiness of life, and how being a grown up is hard, going back to school may be their way then of preparing themselves more.

 

“If you’re looking for more information about gap year programs, talk to your counselor,” said Jamie.

 

Jamie with her Belgium host in 2022. (Jamie Spector)

 

Nate Lovitz, a counselor at U-32 is connected deeply to this stage of planning for after school, and this includes gap years. Nate said,“There are a number of reasons to take a gap year. It’s a great life experience.”

 

However, recent U-32 graduates were struggling after not planning their gap year effectively. With this information Nate encourages students to talk to their counselor.

 

Casey Byrd, a senior at U32 is going into the military. This could be considered as a very long gap year.

 

Gap years remind her of her own hard decisions. Her mom went to college, dropped out, and was in the Air Force for 10 years. The military isn’t missed by the critical eye of others, it has its own misconceptions by society.  “Some people don’t understand the military, people usually see going into the military as a bad thing,” said Casey.

 

Casey sees the topic of gap years in a very punctual way. “If that’s what you want to do, college is not for everybody, what with debt and everything,” said Casey.

 

Some students choose not to go to college. Oscar Alfarone, a recent student at U-32 is now getting settled into what can be a fruitful career without college. His perspective on college that he wouldn’t be able to gain what he wanted from it.

 

The facts are gap years and hard decisions alike are easier with the support of parents. Oscar’s parents understand his decision to not go to college and he is now taking action to specialize in carpentry.

 

Additionally, however controversial this topic of going to college may be, Oscar said, “The biggest misconception is that everyone has to.”

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