Taking a year before attending college offers new perspectives

Rebecca Krane ‘13 teaching at Hebrew at Gateways, one of several activities she did during her gap year. More students are now choosing to take a gap year. Photo provided by Nancy Mager.
Rebecca Krane ‘13 teaching at Hebrew at Gateways, one of several activities she did during her gap year. More students are now choosing to take a gap year. Photo provided by Nancy Mager.

While most seniors next fall will haul large suitcases up the stairs to their new dorms, exchange numbers with their roommates and worry if they are going to make any friends at welcome week, there are quite a few who will not take the traditional route to college right away.

Students may opt to take a gap year, deferring admission from their chosen school for a year and matriculating college the following year as a freshman.

For senior Hannah Williams, the most striking appeal of a gap year is the chance to experience life outside of Brookline, and even America. Williams will go to Brazil for the first six months of her gap year.

“One thing I’ve noticed a lot is how much of a bubble Brookline is and how much everyone is sort of the same; we’re all really fortunate and wealthy in comparison to the rest of the world,” Williams said. “My goal for my gap year is to get a better sense of how people actually live and sort of get out of that bubble.”

Another reason why Williams decided to take a gap year was that she had applied to mostly reach schools, hoping to apply again next year if she was not accepted to any of them. However, she received good news when college decisions came out; she was admitted to her dream school.

Williams is now focusing on the worldly experiences she will gain from her gap year.

“I feel like in college, the people who are there can afford to be there,” Williams said. “In Brazil, there are a lot of slums, so I want to get a sense of how people live there and not just the American way.”

For the second six months, she will be working as an au pair in Spain or Argentina. An au pair is a foreign student who works as a long-term babysitter for the children of a host family and teaches them a language.

“I like taking the scenic route a lot of the time, and going right to college feels like too much of a rush to me,” Williams said.

Senior Tomas Áramburu, like Williams, said going to college right away is not for him. He attributes this to the amount of stress school has put on him.

“I’m very tired after high school. I think that going straight into college would be very difficult for me because I feel very burned out,” Áramburu said. “I want to go into college refreshed, probably with a larger perspective of who I am and what I want to do.”

Áramburu looked for volunteer programs in South America. He will be volunteering for a semester at a school in Peru. For his second semester, he is hoping to attend the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Colorado, which will involve backpacking.

He hopes to escape the normal rhythm of being a student. By not being in a classroom, Áramburu believes he will be able to take away many experiences from his gap year that he could not in college.

“I hope that I’ll really be able to get some experience in a real serious work situation. I hope I get to really experience culture outside of the United States,” said Aramburu.

While members of the class of 2018 are in anticipation for their gap years, Rebecca Krane ‘13 is currently taking a gap year and enjoying it.

In 2013, Krane found out she had been waitlisted at Harvard University. The chances of getting off the waitlist at Harvard were slim due to the university’s yield, but she was offered admission to the class of 2018.

Due to this and the fact that she had heard a chorus of praise about gap years, Krane decided to take one.

Krane has been doing various activities and jobs. She is working part-time as a program assistant and Hebrew teacher at Gateways, a Hebrew school for kids with special needs. For the first semester, she worked at a lab at the New England Aquarium, and for the second semester, she is working at a lab at the Psychology Department at Harvard University.

Krane said the experience has been worthwhile and meaningful and she has walked away feeling refreshed.

“I learned a lot about how to have fun, which sounds kind of silly, but coming from Brookline High, there’s a lot of stress and pressure and there’s a feeling you have to do things constantly,” said Krane. “During the first semester, it was a huge adjustment figuring out how not to do homework and what to do with my free time. I learned a lot about how to keep my mind active while still having fun.”

One of the biggest benefits of taking a gap year is the flexibility, Krane said.

“For example, because of my work schedule, because of not having homework and having free time, I was able to go see Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, speak,” Krane said. “I was able to go see a panel on women in power and a lecture series on gender and medicine.”

Áramburu said taking a gap year allows for a different kind of exploration.

“I just want to have a fun time,” said Aramburu. “I want to take a step away from school work and really explore the other things I want to do with my life.”

Jennifer Sun can be contacted at [email protected]