For some Temple University students, a part of their journey to higher education involves a year off after high school.
The “gap year” was popularized most recently by Malia Obama, who took a year off before going to Harvard University, utilizing her time off to take a trip to Bolivia and Peru, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Ninety-two percent of students said they took a gap year to gain life experiences and grow personally. About 85 percent said it was to travel and experience other cultures, and 81 percent said it was to take a break from the academic track, according to a national alumni survey conducted by the American Gap Association and Temple University’s Institute for Survey Research in 2015.
For Neil Goldenthal, a freshman jazz performance and media studies and production major, his gap year was about taking time for himself to travel to Asia.
“I had never really been out of the country,” Goldenthal said. “I’d never been to Europe or Asia or Africa or South America. My family has a summer business, so we never really went on big vacations or anything like that. So, I started thinking about traveling, and at first, it was kind of like, ‘This would be really cool to do on breaks when I’m older.’ And then it was like, ‘What if I just spent a year and did it?’”
He also used his gap year to recover from the stress of high school, Goldenthal added.
“Now I’m just ready to go into freshman year and ready to tackle the double major,” he said. “The relativity of all the things you can do in your gap year makes college seem a lot more manageable.”
Lizy Pierson, a junior public health major, said she took a gap year to travel the world after transferring out of the University of Miami.
“I was really stressed at my first school, and I always wanted to do a trip to Europe,” Pierson said. “I was like, ‘What better time to go travel than now?’ So I just took a semester off and backpacked through Europe.”
About 69 percent of students moved on to a two to four-year college immediately after graduating high school in 2016, leaving students who take a gap year in the minority, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
At some universities, once a student has been accepted, they can request a year-long delay, but at Temple, new students who wish to defer enrolling in their first semester are not eligible for a Leave of Absence. Instead, they must arrange through the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to defer the semester they begin their studies, according to the Temple University Policies and Procedures Manual.
Michael Mancini, a freshman sociology major, said the two-year break he took after high school for personal reasons increased his confidence and readiness for college.
“I feel like I’m a little bit more grounded,” he said. “It might have thrown me a little bit off my foundation if I just came right to Temple. So, I guess it gave me a little bit more confidence.”
Nonetheless, upon arriving at Temple, Mancini said he experienced some insecurity because of his nontraditional path to college.
“Most of it was just stuff I told myself, like, ‘Oh, you’re behind everybody now.’ I sort of just had to be like, ‘Hey, just because I’m behind doesn’t mean I can’t do the best that I can at this,’” he said. “Just because I ran my race a year or two after someone else doesn’t mean that my time can’t be better.”