Gap years: the holy grail to self-discovery

by Lindsey Anderson , Contributor

My freshman year at SDSU kicked off in August 2018. 

By September 2019, I had already changed my major three times — accounting for roughly 30 units that will never be factored into my graduation. This is equivalent to an entire year of study that simply won’t count. 

At the time, I didn’t mind frequent changes to my focus of study. If anything, it served as a sense of newness to a monotonous schedule of semesterly coursework. 

Yet, as a senior in my final weeks at SDSU, I don’t look back on those degree fluctuations with fondness. 

My inability to pursue a major was not representative of a curious-minded individual seeking breadth of knowledge. Rather, it was indicative of an individual who lacked clear vision for future pursuits. 

My educational goals remained unclear until November 2020 when I moved to the East coast with the freedom of online school. 

There, I lived in Northern Vermont, working as a lift operator at a ski resort and writing poetry for fun. I was introduced to a whole new culture — a world that existed so peacefully outside of the mainstream — and was immersed in a nomadic crowd of adventurers and creatives who traveled in search of the true meaning in their lives. 

The previous year I had declared a major in rhetoric and writing studies that was, at the time, just as transient as those that came before it. But the realizations born out of my life experiences in Vermont eradicated any hesitations about pursuing a degree in writing. 

Had this experience materialized sooner, my focus of study would have been much clearer from the get-go — saving myself and my family thousands of dollars on 30 units of tuition that now, aren’t worth a dime. 

The beauty in online school was that I was presented with these opportunities to travel and live in places previously unknown to me — experiences one only tends to have when taking time off from school.  

For me, online learning was the gap year I never decided to take, and trust me when I say I wish I would have done it sooner.

Frequent degree changes similar to my own are commonplace amongst a majority of American college students. Between 50 and 75 percent of American students enter college undecided or change their major at least once.

Most American college students enter higher education with minimal life experiences and a lack of self-awareness, both of which are leading causes of confusion in educational pursuits. 

Taking a year or two off from school — whether it be after high school or during college — allows students to explore themselves beyond the classroom. A growing sense of purpose and a newly acquired self-awareness cultivates an inspiring environment for students to create an exciting future for themselves.

It is then that these discoveries can be translated into the classroom where the students’ education can be effectively applied to their desired path — keeping many students motivated and on track to graduate with few wasted units. 

This newfound intent and passion in one’s studies is one of the key components that can make a gap year so impactful for students.

So, for those of you who may be struggling with your vision or the intention in your studies, allow yourself the time and space to explore the possibilities of what it could become.

Take some time off for self-exploration: work odd jobs, take up a new hobby and meet the people you’ve been dying to know; dive into the ideas you’ve always been curious about and dissect the questions that keep you up at night — exploring them until you find their answers. 

Through these experiences, you’ll discover the ideas that make you tick —  surprising you and inspiring you to fight your path forward.

It may be uncomfortable for some to delay college graduation beyond the four-year mark, but what you’ll take away from this adventurous chapter are the experiences unattainable within the classroom. 

So take the chance, seize the gap year and watch your true life unfold. 

Lindsey Anderson is a senior studying rhetoric and writing.


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