Go on a gap year, you won’t regret it

As my senior year comes to an end, the number of adults who inquire about what I’m going to do the coming fall sky rockets. Most are surprised when I tell them that I will not be going to college in the coming fall, despite being accepted into every university I applied to. My reasoning is simple; many people regret growing up too soon, and no one regrets travelling the world.

I’m not going on this trip to ‘find myself’ nor am I going on a booze-cruise around Europe using my father’s credit card. I am going to master a foreign language, and be alone for a while, something that I’ve never experienced before.
As many of my friends frantically discuss finding roommates for college next year, whether or not to join Greek life, and desperately Googling cures for their future hangovers, I’m working a minimum wage job that I loathe and babysitting to make sure that I have enough money for food and hostels. I’m not looking down on my friends who have chosen to go to college right away, though I do find it unnerving that they sometimes accuse me of being the immature one by choosing to take a gap year.

A photo of myself and a close friend that I will be spending part of gap year with. We will be hiking lots, just as we are doing in this photo.
A photo of myself and a close friend that I will be spending part of gap year with. We will be hiking lots, just as we are doing in this photo.

Many people have discouraged me from taking a gap year and travelling, then returning to live at home while going to college because I won’t get the “true college experience”. For whatever reason, uncomfortable dorm beds and listening to lectures by an apathetic TA at an expensive state school has become the epitome of the American college experience.

I think that’s stupid.

To my friends paying $20,000+ a year to live less than an hour away from home, with a stranger, I have a few questions: do you really think that because you’ll be paying more than double than what I’ll be paying, you’ll get a better education? Do you think that I’m less independent than you, because I’ll be living at home carefully watching my savings while you ask your parents for money?

I once was serving a group of college admins at CSU in the restaurant I work at, when one asked me where I was going to school. I responded with uncertainty; I had just been accepted to four schools, three of which I would have to stay at the school during my freshman year, and I was flabbergasted by the sheer number of 0’s on the price of tuition. I responded with the politest response my addled brain could come up with at the time:

“I’m not sure what I want to major in, and although I love CSU I’m just not sure that I want to go there yet.”

His response?

“Don’t worry about that. Just go wherever your first year, CSU is a great choice for that. No one learns anything their first two years, so it doesn’t matter where you go. And CSU is a lot of fun.”

While I suppose he said that in an attempt to sway me, it failed quite badly. CSU was the second most expensive school I had gotten into, and there was no way that I wanted to pay their tuition, nor could I ask my parents to pay that exorbitant amount. Although he didn’t mean to, his statement reaffirmed my belief that it doesn’t matter where you go; it’s the work you put in that results in your experience and the education you walk away with.

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