Deciding to Take a Gap Year

By Hannah

I clearly remember sitting at my brother’s high school graduation three years ago and thinking to myself, “I’m going to take a gap year.” I had never really heard the term until that year, but as soon as I saw his peers thinking about taking one, and some ultimately choosing to do so, the idea was locked in my mind. Since then, I’ve followed Instagrams and blogs of friends who have decided to defer their college admission, researched an endless list of gap year programs, and found myself drawn more and more to the idea of spending a year exploring and learning minus the stress of being in school.  

When it was my turn to apply to colleges, I kept these ideas in my mind but decided to make a final decision once I knew where I was going. For the first few days after I got my acceptance letter to Duke, I was so eager to move to Durham and join such a vibrant and passionate community that I told myself I couldn’t wait a year to start. Yet once the initial excitement dissipated—and the reality that my freshman year would be significantly different hit me—deferring was an easy decision. I always knew it was something I wanted to do, and I do not doubt that I made the right choice. 

Choosing to take a gap year was the easy part because once I decided, it became time to plan. In any year, trying to plan out a year would be tough. This year, I don’t just have the challenge of picking a program to join or a place to explore. I also have to consider whether a program’s COVID-19 precautions are sufficient, I have to have backup options, and most of all, I have to be comfortable with things changing at any time.  

After many iterations of an itinerary for the next 12 months, I concluded that “planning” this year has an entirely different meaning. There is no way to predict what the world will look like in a month, let alone 12. I’m learning that I need to be okay when things change and leave a lot of room for uncertainty. 

I’ve realized that even though it doesn’t seem like it, this may be the exact gap year that I need. Being able to make the most of an uncertain time will surely teach me more than anything else. In 5 or 10 years, I won’t look back at my gap year for the things I did or places I went (and honestly, I don’t know how well I will remember the specifics anyways). I hope, though, that I will look back at this time and realize that regardless of what I did or where I was, my gap year significantly impacted my life through college and beyond. I may not be able to travel to the coolest places or do all the things I had hoped, but I am confident that I will be able to grow as a person and gain as much from this time as I would have any other year.  

I look forward to sharing more updates on my year in the coming months!