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Growth Year – Benefits of Gap Year After High School

Published on September 1, 2020

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Growth Year – Benefits of Gap Year After High School

“17 is too young to go to college,” my theology and philosophy professor once told me in our after class discussions at Cornell.

I was contemplating taking a year off from Cornell to pursue an internship with a member of Parliament back in India and wanted to get some guidance from numerous professors at Cornell. I had already taken one year after high school to go to an American boarding school called Phillips Academy for a post graduate program (popularly known as a PG year)

Taking break from the academic life after high school and in the middle of my college education were some of the best and critical decisions that I took in my life. US colleges have had a long tradition of a “deferment” and many students avail this opportunity. I hope that all children figuring out that way forward in their personal or academic life should contemplate taking a gap year or I like to call it: “The Growth year.”

I would like to highlight some of the ways the two “growth years” in life helped me before and during my academic life in the US:

1. Academic Standing:

Being from a traditional British boarding school in India, Mayo College, I was exposed to a basic CBSE education. While I performed well in my classes, we had no exposure on research papers, citations and critical writing. At Phillips Academy, I enrolled in courses like Sports Philosophy, reading music (a mandatory requirement at the school) and even took African drumming. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed but gradually understood the importance of a core curriculum. My English classes helped me score higher on the SAT and most importantly, improved my critical thinking and writing skills. I also give the credit for getting straight A’s in college to my rigorous training at Phillips Academy.

2. Athletics:

As a national squash player, I was also looking at avenues to get better at a sport that I had consumed much of my middle and high school commitments. Initial months after completing my board examinations and during my year at Phillips Academy, I got an opportunity to train and compete with the best coaches and student athletes from around the world. I competed in the US national squash circuit and the high school nationals and met Ivy league coaches looking to recruit students.

3. Work Opportunity:

Internships are critical to our growth. I am relieved that the new education policy in India mandates every high schooler to avail this opportunity. Looking at my peers at Phillips academy motivated to me to look at internships a lot more seriously. I was tired of telling people that I was just going to play squash over the summer compared to their “volunteering work in West Africa for endangered species” or “interning at the NY trading center.” Yes, these are all high school internships. After countless emails, I interned with two companies even before I embarked on my collegiate journey. I worked in the “International procurement” division at Godrej and Boyce (a conglomerate in India) and at a German consulting firm in Bangalore on bringing best sustainability resources to India. I believe that internships tell you “what you do not like to do” a lot more than “what you love to do.” These experiences give you better insight into the social and corporate structures of the world and give valuable life lessons that can be leveraged in college.

4. Do something you love:

For me, that love was squash. As mentioned before, during my “growth year,” I tried to become the best squash player I could ever be. I travelled around the world, attended a Harvard squash camp and made sure to love every single moment. After grueling 4 years of competitive academic journey, playing squash and living a healthy life was a much needed respite from the real world. I urge all the students to seek for what they truly love, travel to uncharted territories, take a music lesson and work for your community. The emotional maturity and social skills that you will acquire during these years will remain with you forever.

Contrary to popular belief, or what I like to call “Aunt/Uncle” belief in India, students are constantly told not to take a year off in their life whether that is after high school, college or while one is engrossed in their professional life. From personal experience, the “growth year” will not only help you to lead a more fulfilling and fruitful life, but will also give you a much needed pause to reflect, battle your fears and get into college or in life with a “growth mindset.”

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