Wake up. Make breakfast. Drop the kids off at school. Do laundry. Visit the Louvre. Pick up the kids. Cook dinner. This is a day in the life of Encinal High School graduate, Rachel Frost, who is currently spending her gap year in Paris as an au pair.
Whether students want to travel, work and raise money or pursue dreams, their interest and completion in gap years has been growing substantially, according to the American Gap Association.
Frost first decided to take a gap year because she was unsure about what she wanted to do in life.
“I didn’t have a clue of what I wanted to do in terms of my major, or what area I wanted to go into,” Frost said. “The universities I had gotten into were so expensive so I didn’t want to spend that much money being unsure of what I wanted.”
Senior Jamie Pitman, who lives in North Carolina, also decided to take a gap year because she did not have a clear idea of what she wanted to do in college. Pitman also wants to take advantage of the opportunities she has while she can.
Pitman will be going to Patagonia for six months and participating in activities such as rock climbing, cultural immersion and mountaineering.
“I hope to get life experiences I won’t be able to get anywhere else and a wider range of knowledge about other places in the world,” Pitman said.
Novamaya, an organization that offers gap semesters and gap years, aims to provide a different type of education and experience that students do not get through high schools or colleges.
The point is to offer a more global awareness by looking at the innovative ways to address current issues around the world, Founder of Novamaya Cyrus Boga said.
PHS senior Perry Fishel decided to take a gap year when she realized that she could not see herself attending college in the fall.
Fishel plans to be involved in a teaching program in the Bay Area through AmeriCorps and also hopes to travel during the year.
“It’ll be nice to have a break from being in school for so long and the gap year will help me appreciate it as well,” Fisher said.
The stress and vigor of high school, especially during senior year with college applications, encouraged her to take a gap year, Fishel said.
“My parents were the ones who suggested I take a gap year and surprisingly, everyone I’ve told has been very supportive in my decision,” Fishel said.
On the other hand, when Pitman mentioned wanting to take a gap year to her parents, they were surprised and did not understand why she wanted to take a break for a year.
“Once I walked them through my plan and proved that I was serious by showing them the money I had saved up by working, they were supportive,” Pitman said.
Frost’s parents had a slightly different initial reaction. When she told her parents she was planning to take a gap year, they were happy that she was making this choice for herself, Frost said.
It is important to be clear about what you want out of a gap year and be realistic about those expectations, Boga said.
“[Gap years] generally give students a better sense of direction and open up new possibilities which they may not have thought about before,” Boga said.
One goal Frost really wanted to achieve with the gap year was to find what makes her happy and then figure out what she wanted to do in college.
“I also wanted to become fluent in another language because it really does help to learn another language and about other cultures,” Frost said. “It gives people a better perspective on the world and life.”
Being in an environment where no one else around her is in the same situation has been a unique experience for Frost, but she has also been able to grow up on her own, Frost said.
“When I was in high school I cared so much about what everyone else was doing and it’s only when I was really on my own that I realized you have to make your life for yourself,” Frost said.
Seeing this helped Frost become closer to the people who care about her, Frost said.
PHS senior Rachel Fong seriously considered taking a gap year, but for a different reason. Fong wanted to take a year to focus on her growing Youtube channel, Kawaiisweetworld, because she started to get larger brand deals from important companies.
Fong, however, has decided against taking a gap year and will attend Stanford next fall.
“I talked to someone at Stanford and she said that at college you can have more time to pursue outside interests than in high school,” Fong said.
Upon hearing from Stanford, Fong was very excited to go to college, which is partly why she did not want to take a gap year, Fong said.
According to the American Gap Association National Alumni Survey students who took gap years currently experience higher levels of job satisfaction and civic participation compared to national norms.
“A good gap year is one that gives you more self awareness and provides time reflect and learn about yourself,” Boga said.