The Gap Year

Straying from the seemingly sole post-graduation path is trending in our community. These students and alumni share what it's like to venture in a direction or their own after high school.

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The Gap Year

Kelsey Swing, Allie Clark, Annie O'Connell, and Conor McDonough

Kelsey Swing, Allie Clark, Annie O'Connell, and Conor McDonough

Kelsey Swing, Allie Clark, Annie O'Connell, and Conor McDonough

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As a college preparatory school, students are clearly pushed to pursue a specific path after graduation. But many are choosing to stray from that path to create new experiences for themselves while trailblazing for other students. Often these new paths are coming in the form of gap years either to work, play sports, or travel.

Students like Conor McDonough ‘16 and John Ferguson ‘16 are pursuing their sports by participating in postgraduate studies and Junior Hockey, respectively. McDonough tore his ACL before his senior year which decreased his ability to play collegiate lacrosse; however, he is going to play over the summer and attend an East Coast prep school to keep up with the recruiting season to eventually play collegiate lacrosse.

McDonough, however, did not initially plan on taking this course of action. He says, “my first thought was ‘oh that’s weird, I just want to go the Blake route and go right to college, all my friends are going to college, that’s what I should be doing.’” He soon realized that his dream of playing collegiate lacrosse would only happen if he took another year to improve.

I think the gap year is for a lot of people an eye-opening experience. It allows them to go to college with a much better understanding, appreciation, and conception of what it should be.”

— Jim Mahoney

He adds, “I felt like if I didn’t do the postgrad year   . . . I would always regret it.” This gap year will allow him to play lacrosse while also giving him “experiences in a new environment.”

Ferguson has similar aspirations for next year. He is playing Junior Hockey in order to hopefully be recruited by colleges and be able to continue his hockey career. He says, “I will get to continue playing a sport that I love, make connections and live in a new part of the country.”

Allie Clark ‘16 is taking a gap year for non-athletic reasons. She will work in a lab in Montana to pursue her passion for science. Graduating young for her grade,  at 16, she   wanted to get more experience before going to college. Clark says that she is taking a gap year to get “real world experiences before heading off to college.”

Similarly, Kelsey Swing ‘16 flew to France for the second semester of her gap year to travel and “gain world perspective.” She believes, “the more angles you look at something, the better it is that you can understand it.” Swing has applied this belief to her year of travel as she emphasizes the importance of taking a break and seeing the world from entirely new perspectives.

Jim Mahoney, Senior Grade Dean and College Counselor, echoes this message saying, “I think the gap year is for a lot of people an eye-opening experience. It allows them to go to college with a much better understanding, appreciation, and conception of what it should be.” A gap year often allows a student to take a breath of fresh air and step back from the chaos of life sometimes.

Nick Swaggert ‘99 and Poppy Harlow ‘01 have spoken in symposia recently, both taking unconventional routes to their current professions. Swaggert did not go directly to college and enlisted in the Marine Corps. Harlow was not accepted to law school, which was her intended path, but was  instead hired by CNN where she is now the weekend anchor of CNN Newsroom. This unlikely path veered off in a direction that allowed her to discover the career that she loves.

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