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Opportunities during gap years spark community reflection

Audrey Cushman
Students explore different opportunities throughout high school and university. Many graduating seniors follow an alternative pathway to gain new experiences before continuing their academic journey.

Every year, two to 10 High School graduates decide to take a gap year following the completion of Grade 12, according to Director of Student Advising Anne Richardson. Richardson said gap years can take myriad forms, whether they involve working, traveling or interning. 

Richardson, who took a gap year herself before college, said for one to make the most out of a gap year, it is necessary to be purposeful with their decisions. 

“It’s really a time to explore your interests,” Richardson said. “Confirm for yourself as to why it is you want to go on to higher education, and where you want to focus your energies.”

Instead of rushing to attend a university, Andrew Wigg (’83) said he took a gap year which allowed him to tour different schools at his own pace to find the right fit. He smiled while recounting the memory of visiting his college, Norwich University, for the first time. 

“I just fell in love with the school,” Wigg said. “I thought, ‘this is the place that would be good for me to go to college.’”

University Advisor Nicole Thompson said gap years are suitable for students who would like to take a break from structured academics to regain their passion before continuing to higher education. 

“By the time folks graduate high school, they aren’t always as passionate about learning,” Thompson said. “Taking some time away and doing something different can help them to remember that learning can be an exciting experience.”

Mairead Doherty (’23) said she is taking a gap year after graduation, and while her future is not set in stone, she plans to spend her year working, completing internships and possibly traveling. She said she has high hopes for the lessons in self-sufficiency and self-motivation that will follow. 

“I definitely think I can expect to slump when I’m out of school and there’s nothing pushing me, but I feel like that’s what I’m gonna have to overcome,” Doherty said. “I’m excited for getting the opportunity to be more independent and to grow because I feel like I will by the end of the gap year.”

Similarly, Alexandra Pritchard (’23) said she is also considering a gap year. She said while the prospect of new experiences away from a structured school environment is exciting, based on her experiences during breaks from school, she is concerned about staying driven throughout 12 months. 

“We have 12 weeks off for summer, and it’s difficult to stay motivated,” Pritchard said. “That’s definitely a factor.”

Likewise, Doherty said she is anxious about “not having something external telling you what to do” during her gap year. 

Despite these possible setbacks, both Pritchard and Doherty have set their sights on new experiences in the near future. Pritchard said she plans to spend a few months with family in South America, while Doherty said she is considering working in entertainment or film throughout her gap year to save money for higher education.

Wigg said these prospective plans reflect the experiences from his gap year, in which he lived with his family and worked at a local grocery store, meaningful memories that remain with him to this day. 

“I made a lot of great friends,” Wigg said. “I think it was the right thing for me to do.”

Pritchard said the pressure of submitting college applications was a challenging experience but it was the sign that sparked her plan to take a gap year. 

“All of a sudden, when you get to Grade 12 you’re applying, and I think it was just so stressful,” Pritchard said.

Thompson said she agrees that a pause from academic stress can be necessary for students to value their experiences and make the right decision after a gap year.

I’m excited for getting the opportunity to be more independent and to grow because I feel like I will by the end of the gap year.

— Mairead Doherty ('23)

“It helps some people really appreciate the university experience even more,” she said. “They’re not just doing it because it’s the next step, but because it’s something they chose.”

On the other hand, Doherty said her older brother’s decision to take a gap year inspired her from a younger age. 

“My older brother took one… and it really worked out for him, like, I can see how much he’s grown as a person after taking it,” Doherty said. 

Richardson said while a gap year can be an intimidating investment, her experience left her with zero regrets. The time she spent working in Paris and exploring new places was an experience she said she would not forget. 

“I just think it was hard work,” Richardson said. “But, would I do it again? Absolutely.”

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About the Contributor
Audrey Cushman, Reporter
Audrey Cushman ('26) is a Reporter for The Standard in Advanced Journalism.

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