by Maddie Katz
After students throw their caps into the air and leave high school, they typically continue their schooling with a college education.
However, a handful of students opt for alternatives to college in the year after graduation.
One such option is taking a gap year, which is usually defined as a student deferring a college acceptance for a year to instead pursue a real-world experience. For example, gap year students may travel to foreign countries, apply themselves to academic studies or get a job, according to Guidance Counselor Mr. Andrew Buckner.
In an interview on usnews.com, Gail Reardon, the director of Taking Off, a gap year counseling firm, said she believes the term “gap year” is a misnomer. Reardon said that a gap year is not an academic break but rather an enhancement and filler for what was not taught in schools.
She added: “A gap year is about what happens after school, how you make decisions, how you figure out who you are, where you want to go and how you get there. It’s about the skill set you need to live your life.”
Recently, the practice of taking gap years has grown exponentially in the U.S., and, according to usagapyearfairs.org, there are now “gap year events” in over 12 major U.S. cities. These events are held to inform students about the different programs that offer gap years.
Some WHS students are participating in this national trend.
Senior Julia Bieber, for example, will be spending next year in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where she will attend classes affiliated with the American Jewish University. According to Bieber, she hopes to get more real-world experience before going off to college.
Said Bieber: “[I will] also be doing some volunteer work and learning to speak Hebrew. It will give me a chance to live in a new place and in a different culture.”
Senior Geneva Gleason will be traveling to France next year to work as an au pair and attend French language classes.
Other students, such as seniors Chris Wright and Brian Mandel, will be taking a postgraduate year to attend a prep school and strengthen their academic or athletic skills before venturing off to college.
Wright said he is taking next year to focus specifically on his athletic skills. “The biggest reason I am taking a PG year…at South Kent School in Connecticut is to give me one more year to strengthen my skills and ready myself to play at the Division 1 college basketball level,” said Wright.
In Westfield, a typically college-bound community, gap years have become increasingly popular. The alternatives of what can be done before going off to college are endless.