Column by J1 Reporter Jill Williamson
Put in simple terms, the approximate time the average American student spends in school from pre-K through their senior year of high school is 1,827,720 seconds, or 30,462 hours, or 4,352 school days. To some people, 4,352 days might not seem that extensive on the surface, but all it takes is an ounce of perspective. That is 4,352 morning alarms, 4,352 morning drives to school, 4,352 cafeteria lunches, 4,352 dismissal bells, etc. It is no secret that a substantial portion of a person’s childhood is spent within the walls of a school.
For many students, school does not just end once they throw on that gown, toss up their graduation cap, and latch onto their high school diploma. From a young age, children constantly hear about college from their parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors. To me, it seems as though every stage of schooling that I have gone through is only done in an effort to be one step closer to college. Marian provides countless helpful resources to encourage students to partake in a college-oriented future. Due to the fact that Marian is a college preparatory school, a student can easily become lost in the chaos of it all. Oftentimes, I find myself judging all of my high school achievements based on how they would look on my college admission resume, rather than celebrating them for what they are.
College is romanticized as “one of the best times of your life,” and I am positive that some people find truth in this statement. College has proven to be a pivotal stage of life for a plethora of people. It is about much more than just continuing the education process, and many students can say positive things about their new life experiences that were only made possible due to the opportunities that college has presented them. However, it is crucial to note that college is not the only feasible option available to students right after high school.
4,352 – remember that number? That is the number of days that students are forced to course through their life following a similar, if not the same, routine. I can imagine that for most students, the routine looks something familiar to this: wake up, eat breakfast, go to some classes, eat lunch, go to some more classes, get dismissed from school, go to sports practice, get home, eat dinner, do homework, sleep, repeat. 4,352 times. Obviously, there are individual variations within each of those school days, but for the most part, school from pre-K to high school is a whole lot of the same regimen.
While college is a great fit for a lot of students right after high school, this is not always the case for everyone. College varies greatly from any previous schooling received, but many people fail to realize that there are still components of that same routine from pre-K through high school that carry over into college life. For this exact reason, many students have made the decision to take a gap year after high school, in an effort to stray away from the norms of that routine. Unfortunately, in today’s society, gap years are often frowned upon because they do not follow the traditional path frequently taken by students to go to college straight from high school. In reality, taking a gap year is a smarter decision both financially and mentally if a student is not yet entirely prepared to enter the college scene.
As a Marian girl, I will make a comparison to this in the best way I know how to — in terms of Field Week. To about every surrounding high school in Omaha, the tradition of Field Week is seen as the most confusing concept ever. Trying to explain it to a stranger of Marian is nearly the equivalent of explaining rocket science. In fact, some have even gone as far to call Field Week a “waste of time.” However, to Marian girls, it is one of the most valuable experiences during all four years of their attendance. This is due to all the significant lessons learned, long-lasting memories made, and tight knit bonds formed that would not be achieved while sitting in a classroom. Learning comes in many different forms, and I think that it is important to note the beneficial factors of partaking in various learning methods outside of the classroom. Field week alone is proof that not following the beaten path, or straying from routine, can leave a very positive impact. The exact same thing goes for gap years.
Gap years allow individuals to improve themselves while simultaneously doing the things they love, whether that be travelling, interning to gain work experience, language immersion, or even simply just taking time to navigate how to live life apart from a routine. There is no “right way” to do a gap year. In fact, every single person’s gap year experience looks different, due to the fact that the opportunities regarding how to spend it are endless. Partaking in any of these activities stimulates a sense of individuality in a person because for the first time in their entire life, they are not growing alongside other people that share the same age as them. They are forced to learn how to think and figure things out for themselves, without a teacher aiding them in the process.
Although some students are ready to go to college immediately after high school, others need that gap year to act as a “reset button.” Gap years allow for students to discover more about their interests, and they have assisted many people in perceiving how they want their future to look. Studies have proven that students who take a gap year to pursue something new after high school actually enter college with a more school-motivated mindset than those who go without a gap year. For this reason, I do not think that there should be a negative stigma surrounding students admitting that they need to take a small break from school, and switch up the pattern by running by their own clock and rules.