The May 1 deadline for college decisions has long since passed, and as the school year comes to a close, seniors have decided on their plan for the coming years. Most will go to college, but there are a handful of students who are opting for other choices. Some hold a dream of backpacking through Europe or doing a little traveling while they’re still young while others choose to take a gap year or join the military.
Those who struggled through high school often do not see the benefit of paying large sums of money to barely stay afloat for the next four years. Senior Tyler Bland said, “I’m barely making it through high school. I’m not feeling like struggling in college too.” A degree and a high paying job are not guaranteed simply by attendance of a prestigious university after all. According to the Pew Research Center, 44% of undergraduates end up in jobs that do not require a degree. “I have a steady source of income and for now that’s working,” said Bland.
A common reason students are pressured to attend college is so they can obtain a high paying job and live out a happy, cushy lifestyle. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 69% of high school graduates end up enrolled in college. “I’m going [to college] because I don’t want to be poor,” said senior Austin Couto. “I want to be better off financially than previously.”
At the same time, the rising cost of tuition can drive students away and into the arms either of a gap year or the military. Taking a gap year to earn a little extra money and unwind from the high school drama is something that many people would love to have the option to do. Some even imagine taking the chance to do some travelling while they’re still young. Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, may not offer up enough monetary help even after filling out the required information, leaving some feeling that taking a year off is their only option.
Even for those who are going to college, this ideal of a year off to travel is extremely tempting.
Senior Jess Silvia said, “I would’ve loved to backpack through Europe, but it’s not financially possible.” Unfortunately, without money you can’t travel. To get the money, you need a high paying job. To get the high paying job, you need to go to college, and even then most are stuck with crippling student loan debt and some do not obtain the job they worked four years to earn. Alas, travel becomes impossible.
However, one student, Emily Alves, managed to find an opportunity to do some travelling before college.
“I am undecided, but sure I’m going somewhere, I am not ready for college. I need time for myself, for healing, and for room for thought,” she said. “Gap years are not spoken about enough, so they are sometimes looked down on because people feel like they won’t be on the same page as their friends or people surrounding them education wise.”
With the constant stress from classroom responsibilities, there are few moments for retrospection and the ability to get to know yourself as a person. A gap year manages to encompass the inner growth and discovery that is essential in becoming adapted to emotions and dreams.
There are many differing programs to choose from when investing time into the world of volunteering. United Planet, a mission focused, non-profit organization, has a special section of their informational website for those who take a year off from enrolling into college. Where they serve to help and open others up to the idea of volunteer work for the greater good not only helps those in need, but also those who have the ability to do those altruistic deeds in the first place. Some of these deeds center on Environmental Sustainability in New Zealand, Global Health in Peru, and Children and Education volunteer work in Chile.
Nonetheless, there is the opportunity to travel and have guaranteed financial stability in joining the armed forces. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the Montgomery GI Bill (which had originally been implemented post-WWII) gives college benefits to future service members when they have fully gone through with active duty for a branch in the military. These benefits are then eligible for use for 10 years prior to active duty. While university level education is not the goal for everyone in the service, it is an opportunity that becomes easily accessible with government assistance.
There are a million different options to take when graduating from high school. This common belief that college is the end all be all in regards to financial stability is seemingly obsolete in the grand scheme of things. In a world of over seven billion people, it’s possible for even you to follow your dreams, no matter what they are.