The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

Why college students should take a gap year

Left, the New York Times building as pictured on April 5, 2023. Osorio received a tour of the building on this day, led by reporter Christina Caron. She visited several floors of the building, including the Times’ basement called “The Morgue,” where thousands of archives are located. On the right, Osorio is pictured at Washington Square Park on March 28, one of the many weekends she had to explore the city. (Angela Osorio | The Union)

Lack of motivation. Switching majors. Dropping out.

These are all “normal” experiences college students face, as they are forced to decide on what college they want to go to and what career they want to pursue as soon as they graduate high school.

Summer break isn’t a lot of time for students to make up their minds and decide on a major. The societal pressure of being prepared and deciding your major by the time you start college is what leads students into a whole lot of debt and regret.

For example, parental or peer pressure might lead one student to commit to a biology major. They take on a student loan to afford an expensive program, end up hating it and switch majors halfway through college, wasting a lot of time, effort and money.

This could all be avoided if students simply took the time off school, to think, reflect, and discover what they truly want to do.

Taking a gap year teaches you new things about yourself through meaningful experiences such as volunteering, traveling and internship programs.

Gap-year students embark on a journey of personal growth, discovering what their passions, talents and dreams are. This sets them up for future success, as they get to choose a career they are happy and passionate about.

Research by The University of Western Australia reveals that students who take a gap year are more likely to achieve higher grades once they enter university. Gap-year students also tend to have higher motivation once they start college.

In addition, students who take a gap year report high satisfaction at their jobs, according to researchers Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson, authors of “The Gap Year Advantage.”

Last spring, I made one of the scariest but best decisions I could ever make: I moved to New York for six weeks.

After a tiring fall 2022 semester, I participated in a gap year program with the School of the New York Times, a company that provides summer programs for high school students and gap year programs post-high school.

I wanted to explore my career options and decide whether or not journalism was for me, before continuing my time at college.

During the program, I participated in two-week courses exploring different careers, led by industry professionals. I went on class trips to places like the New York Times building and the United Nations Headquarters.

As I began learning about style, politics and publishing, however, I quickly discovered that these careers were not for me.

It wasn’t until my final reflection project that I finally felt passionate and excited about an assignment.

For my final project, I decided to write a collection of feature stories. I was inspired by a green infrastructure engineer who I met while volunteering with GrowNYC, a nonprofit nonprofit environmental organization.

After talking to him and learning about the community garden he was building for a neighborhood in Queens, it inspired me to find more people like him–ordinary citizens who were doing extraordinary things for their community and environment.

I interviewed more community superheroes, including a music teacher who started a non-profit environmental organization and a German immigrant who pruned trees for the city.

Through this project, I discovered my true passion: telling stories.

That’s where I felt the most freedom; where I could use my creativity to tell someone else’s story in my own unique way.

Journalism has provided a pathway for me to do that and I’m very grateful to have discovered it through this gap semester in the Big Apple.

If students were to just take the time off school to invest in their future, they would discover so much about themselves and be more prepared to enter college with a positive, confident, and motivated outlook.

All it takes is a little bit of research and a whole lot of guts.

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