An epidemic is spreading throughout the United States. Signs of infection are loss of concentration, an unwillingness to contribute to personal learning and a heightened sense of feeling lost and alone.
This disease: burnout in education, is caused by the constant strain students feel to perform at their best, go to the best school and find the best career. According to the Council for Aid to Education, almost half of public college students do not graduate.
This is a symptom of burnout.
In addition to the problems of burnout, employers are looking for people who have a degree and something more. The U.S. Department of Labor counts the unemployment rate at 7.3 percent, deducing that higher education is no longer enough; a resume with depth and diversity is a crucial addition.
How can we cure this? How can we set ourselves above the rest? The only known antidote is called “the gap year.” Affluent voices everywhere are urging for a gap year: Harvard College Dean of Admissions encourages taking a gap year, to find passion and to find the “something more.”
This “something more” can be gained through volunteering, interning or working in new environments; exactly what is done in a gap year. A gap year helps students graduate, build resumes and save money through these worldly experiences.
Katie Palermo, a gap year success story and CSU graduate, found passion in international relations after an “eye opening” year. She gained this passion through volunteering her way around the world, which gave her reason to return to the classroom and graduate.
Without the gap year, Palermo could have easily joined the 42 percent of students who don’t find their passion and don’t graduate. A gap year is a step towards passion — a step towards graduation.
The Complete Guide to the Gap Year offers 94 different opportunities, programs, and organizations to gain cultural immersion, internship opportunities, and new skills; merely one resource exemplifying the opportunities of a gap year. A gap year is a step towards depth and diversity — a step towards a competitive resume.
Critics of a gap year feel pushing through burnout is more cost effective, reasoning that money spent on a gap year takes away from money spent on tuition. However, many gap year programs cost nothing while providing housing and a monthly stipend. For example, City Year provides a monthly stipend and housing while students volunteer as mentors to at risk youth. In addition, City Year gives a grant to be used for higher education upon completion of the program. This is only one example of the ways in which a gap year can be more cost effective. A gap year is a step towards efficiency — a step towards saving money.
Burnout is no laughing matter; this disease is spreading like “senioritis” did all those years ago. We must encourage students to take at least one dose of the gap year, otherwise it will be too late for this generation and definitely the next. The United States needs to accept burnout as an epidemic. We all need to understand that higher education is not enough. A gap year means graduation. A gap year means a career. A gap year means money saved. A gap year means a happy life. Talk to your parents, tell the youth, influence your peers, tell them: “We need the gap year.”
Kelsey Carkeek is a senior communications studies major. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.