Going for a Gap

Students, counselor discuss implications of gap years

Kiki Koniaris, a freshman at the University of Chicago and year 2018 graduate of CHS, recently started her first day of college following a gap year between high school and college. According to Koniaris, during her gap year she participated as an Americorp for Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia.

Koniaris said, “I was a construction crew leader, so everyday I worked on the construction site, helping build houses, repair homes, work in the rehab department, I was leading volunteers and teaching them how to perform construction exercises.”

According to Gap Year Association, there were between 30,000 and 40,000 students who were taking off a semester or more in between before college in 2017. According to Melinda Stephan, College and Career Programming and Resources (CCPR) Coordinator, the vast majority of CHS students don’t plan on taking a gap year before college. Stephan believes that a gap year is an idea that’s catching on and that more and more people are choosing to take one.

Stephan says many benefits can come out of taking a gap year before college.

“The biggest benefits are these ideas of personal growth and maturity and a stronger sense of both self and purpose. One reason [of taking a gap year] may be that opportunity to get that clarity about what you want to pursue in your education and ultimately your career,” Stephan said. 

According to Koniaris, after her 11 months of service she had worked on roughly 20 houses including repairs, rehab, and new home construction. 

Koniaris said taking a gap year had an overall positive impact on her life. 

Koniaris said, “I lived on my own for a year and I learned how to take care of myself and behave like an adult. I learned a lot of new things that gave me a lot of perspective on the value of education and I guess it generally made me more open to try new things and experimenting and not having to follow one certain path to achieve success.” 

However, while Koniaris’s experiences was positive, many challenges can arise from taking gap years as well. 

Stephan said, “You get out of the practice of being a student. If you take a gap year and you’re not studying, going to classes, reading and you’re away from that for a year, coming back to that could be a challenge to some students in terms of motivation and honing those skills again.”

For  Koniaris, she said adjusting has been the biggest challenge when it comes to switching to college from her gap year. 

Koniaris said, “It has been weird adjusting to not living on my own and having a vaguely 9 to 5 work schedule, so it’s kind of strange coming back into an environment where not only you have classes where you have to attend but you also have to do a lot of work outside of your classrooms in order to keep up.”

Stephan said there are a lot of more enriching opportunities for students who are taking a gap year before college when compared to high school such as travelling, internships, jobs and service projects. Stephan said some specific, selective colleges are even encouraging gap years now. 

“They know that students will come back different people and even more ready to be successful academically and on their campus community,” Stephan said.  

Stephan said there are resources available to students who are thinking about taking a gap year. They have programs available on the counseling Canvas page as well as counselors who are willing to meet with students to discuss the possibility of taking a gap year with them. 

Overall, Stephan said, students who are uncertain with their college plans and want to go in undecided may want to consider taking a gap year. 

“It’s not always good to go to college just to go to college. If you’re not motivated, you may find that you may not be successful,” Stephan said.

For Koniaris, the problem wasn’t not knowing what to do for college, but rather just being tired of school. 

Koniaris said, “I wanted to take a year off because I was feeling burnt out of school. I love learning and I love education but high school took a very strong emotional toll on me and I wanted to go and try something completely new and different and kind of revitalize my love of learning after a period of time spent away.

“I highly recommend that everyone take a gap year and do something meaningful, especially if it’s good for the world,” she added. “I think it gave me a lot of perspective and it made me really happy to be honest.”