November 9, 2015

Q&A with a Gap Year Student

Are you feeling uncertain or hesitant about going straight to college?  Do you want to gain more life, travel or professional experience? Are you concerned about what colleges think? Are you overwhelmed by the options?

We know how helpful it can be for a student who is thinking about a gap year to hear directly from peers who have - or have had - similar questions, so we reached out to some of our current gappers who are "in the field" and on their gap years now. We received some incredibly honest and inspiring replies, and we hope to post a few blogs in this series.

To kick us off, we are proud to introduce you to Angie Diana, a 2015 high school graduate from Massachusetts, who sent her answers in from her current placement in Costa Rica ...

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Interim: How were you feeling as a high school senior, a year ago this time, about the college process?
Angie: I had somewhat of a one-track mind when it came to the college process: I had only one school that I wanted to go to, and I wanted to go the next fall. I truly was not considering any other options until I got rejected from that college and had to reevaluate what my path would be. I wouldn’t say, however, that I especially disliked any part of the process; on the contrary, I was motivated to get all my applications done and enjoyed writing my essays.

Interim: Why did you feel drawn to taking a gap year? What did/ do you hope to get out of it?
Angie: When I got rejected in the winter from the college I wanted to go to, I started to reconsider my thought process regarding going to college. I realized that there really is no rush to matriculate right away, and that a gap year would give me time to pursue mountaineering, an interest I’ve held for all of high school. I began to realize that if I really wanted to climb, I wouldn’t exactly have time between classes in college, and so a gap year would be the perfect opportunity. More broadly, though, it just dawned on me that I could spend an entire year doing whatever makes me happy, and it seemed silly to pass that up. To some extent, then, I just wanted to live the way I wanted to rather than being governed, scheduled, and regimented by a larger institution.

Interim: What were your (and your parents) biggest concerns about taking a gap year?
Angie: Honestly, once I got on board with the idea, I didn’t have many concerns at all besides actually planning the year. My high school guidance department was very encouraging of gap years and made it clear that many colleges actually encourage or require them for some students. I think my parents may have been briefly concerned that colleges would be less likely to accept me, but once they learned that the opposite was true, they were completely on board as well.

Interim: Now that you are a 1/3 of the way through your gap year, how is it going? Is it meeting your expectations? Were your concerns valid? Can you share a particularly impactful experience?
Angie: My gap year has been absolutely amazing so far, although I haven’t really done much mountaineering yet because it’s not quite the right season. I am, however, learning Spanish, which was another one of my goals going into this year. In terms of having more control over my life, my gap year has exceeded my expectations. I’ve essentially been travelling on my own for two months now, living with host families and working in a foreign country where English is not widely spoken. It hasn’t exactly been easy, but the freedom is certainly worth it.

At one point, Katherine and I decided to hike up ChirripĆ³, the tallest mountain in Costa Rica. When we got to the summit and watched the most beautiful sunrise, I turned to Katherine and said, “Can you believe our friends are taking mid-terms right now?” We realized that, because we had so much freedom, we could choose to have whatever awesome experiences we wanted.

Interim: What words of advice do you have for the high school seniors right now who are not sure about college, and who are thinking about a gap year?
Angie: I would say that if you’re thinking about it at all, you should seriously entertain the thought by brainstorming ways you could spend your year, researching programs, doing a consultation with Interim, or talking to other students who took gap years. If you decide you definitely want to do it, I would say to be organized about it. First off, starting earlier is always better. I would also highly recommend using a gap year consultation service like Interim, as they’ve really helped to organize the many parts of my gap year and to introduce me to programs and options I wouldn’t have known existed. And lastly, I would say to apply to college normally and then defer matriculation for a year so you won’t have to worry about going through the college process while you’re actually on your gap year, which may be messy and stressful.
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