Taking a Gap Year Before College: 3 Collegiette Success Stories

Experiencing the World

Madison Matthes of Goshen, Indiana, spent the year after her high school graduation developing her passions for Spanish and Christianity in Costa Rica.  Instead of battling the Freshman 15 on campus like her classmates, Madison teamed up with an organization called SCORE International to study Spanish and the Bible, and to start a church for English-speaking Costa Ricans.  

“I decided to do it because Spanish is one of my passions, and I really just knew that God wanted me to go to Costa Rica this year so he could teach me a lot,” Madison says.

For Madison, a gap year was a chance to get a once-in-a-lifetime experience living and learning in a different country.  After finding out about the program from her high school Spanish teacher, Madison decided to put college on hold until she could take a break and explore her passions in Costa Rica.  

“I knew in advance that I would come back with a completely different outlook on life, so I didn’t really make any plans for the reason that I knew I would figure it out when I got there,” she says.  

Now back in the states, Madison will be starting school at Indiana University South Bend in the fall, and she plans to major in linguistics.  True to her plan of figuring it out during her time in Costa Rica, she applied to college while she was home on Christmas break this past year.  

“I feel like in the States there’s a huge push for a college education, and that it has to happen right away, but I am glad I took a year to focus, learn, and get my priorities straight before just jumping in without a breath,” she says.  “Now I’m enrolled in college, but I’m more excited about looking for opportunities to serve, grow, and build relationships instead of just working hard to get the grade.”

Madison may be starting college a year later than her high school classmates, but she will be entering college with a background unlike any other thanks to her gap year in Costa Rica.  

If you have an incurable case of wanderlust or a passion for serving others, what better time to travel than while you’re young and carefree? After all, college will still be there when you return from your voyages.  Like Madison, you can seek recommendations from teachers, guidance counselors, or church leaders to find the perfect travel or service program for you.  If you know you want to go to college when your gap year ends, though, make sure to have a plan before you board your plane.  You can apply to colleges during your senior year of high school and try to defer your enrollment for a year, or you can follow Madison’s lead and apply to colleges during your gap year – just don’t wait until you come home in the spring to apply for college in the fall!

Taking a gap year can seem risky and scary – especially after graduation when your friends are packing their bags and saying their goodbyes before college.  But, a little time off can go a long way if it ultimately leads you to your dreams or passions.  With a well thought-out plan – or a time frame in which to make a plan – your gap year can teach you more about yourself, introduce you to a new culture, and prepare you for the career of your dreams!

Photo Credits
Unhappy Teenage Girl
Confused Girl
YC Sky Line
oman on the Beach

Alex is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is double-majoring in Journalism and Spanish. Originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, she likes to say that you can take the girl out of the beach, but you can't take the beach out of the girl. She plans to pursue a career in public relations, and she may even do so speaking Spanish! She has a serious case of wanderlust and big dreams of traveling the world. For now, though, Alex enjoys cheering on her Tar Heels, heading home to the beach in the summer, and writing for HC, of course! Keep up with Alex by visiting her website at www.alexgladu.wordpress.com.

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