I hated high school. I hated waking up at 7AM just so I could be to school by 7:55 (which I rarely was. I blame it on the fact that 7:55 is such a random time, just make it 8 for goodness sake), I hated my classes, I hated my retail job that I had to work just to make money for a college education I wasn’t even sure I wanted or needed, and sometimes I even hated my classmates (through no fault of their own. I seriously went to school with some of the nicest kids, I was just really cynical, OK?). In short, I hated the lack of control that I had in my own life, and I thought that the only way to gain control would be to leave home and head off to college.
My parents, being mentally sound people seeing their directionless daughter on the brink of disaster, begged me to take a gap year to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. But I, being an all-knowing seventeen year old, less than politely declined their offers to stay at home and eat their food rent-free for a year (WHAT WAS I THINKING).
I began halfheartedly looking at schools, but quickly realized that as a student with a fairly low GPA, almost no extracurricular activities to show for the past four years (except theater. Please let me into your school, I know who Michael Shurtleff is!), and almost no money, my options were fairly limited. At first when my friend suggested I tour a regional campus of USU with her, I turned up my nose. I was DEFINITELY too good to go to a school with Eastern in the name, that was for sure (I’m laughing as I type this, honestly). But when my friend came back from her tour reporting a nice campus and rumors of scholarships, I had to admit, I was interested. Another friend’s parents booked us a campus tour, and off we went to rural Utah, a place I had hoped to never find myself.
As you can probably already guess, I ended up at the school with Eastern in the name. In fact, it was the only one I applied to because even with my disgustingly low high-school GPA, they offered me an academic scholarship which I could not refuse, and a position on their student government, which I also could not refuse. My freshman year of college was pretty typical, I starved, studied, laughed, and cried along with the rest of my classmates, and it was exactly what I needed.
I firmly believe that going to college right out of high school was one of the best things I could’ve done for myself. Between classes, student government, and my part time job, I have begun to learn the invaluable lessons of hard work. I’ve learned that if you want to get anywhere in this world, sometimes you might have to wake up earlier than you want to, and go to sleep later than you’d like, but that’s just real life, something I had no idea about before starting my college journey, and something I still have a lot to learn about. I’ve learned some practical lessons, like how to pay rent and write a check ( I learned that one last Wednesday), but I’ve also learned some life lessons. I’m beginning to learn that the world isn’t always fair; good things happen to bad people and good people don’t always get what they deserve, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put forth your best. I’ve learned how to distinguish my true friends from those I should hold at an arms length, and I’ve learned that although my parents aren’t always right, they are 99.99% of the time.
In my mind as a very naive high school student, the phrase “gap year” was basically synonymous with the word failure. A gap year meant you were either too lazy to go to college, or too scared. I was most definitely wrong. Taking a gap year, although it wasn’t what I chose, can be a very smart thing to do. It gives you time and space away from high school to truly think about your future, without being thrown into the whirlpool that is college. In my sophomore year of college I’ve met a lot of people who’re just starting out after taking their gap year, and they generally have their finances in better order, and a better understanding of what they want and how to get it than most traditional freshman, and some of them have even spent part of their year abroad, which is so cool.
In conclusion, consider your options and do what feels right for you no matter what anyone else is telling you. If you want to go to college right after high school, do it. It might take a little courage and a big toll on your bank account, but I can promise you that you will gain friendships and experiences that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. On the same note if you feel that you need more time before venturing into the great unknown, IT IS OK. I cannot stress that enough, do not throw yourself into something you know you don’t want or aren’t ready for, just because you feel pressured to. No matter what you choose to do, it’s all gonna be OK.