I’ve been asked a lot recently why I’m taking a gap semester – so here’s the whole story!
Like many recent high school grads, I am frequently accosted, by strangers and friends alike, with the same inevitable question: “So, what are you doing in the fall?” The assumption behind this innocent query is one that I held up until about a year ago – that I, like many other American youth, would be pursuing a higher education two short months after completing high school. I have been privileged to grow up with the assurance of a college education, and am eternally grateful for an opportunity that many, both before me and around the world right now, have fought and are fighting for courageously.
That being said, I began to question this conveyor-belt future right around September of my senior year. Ah, September: that magical time when college decisions, SATs, and application deadlines suddenly become much less abstract and much more terrifying, as IB* deadlines rapidly approach and high school seniors everywhere spend their free time diligently procrastinating. (See How To Write A College Application Essay.)
*For those lucky enough to have escaped without firsthand knowledge of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme, it is comparable to an exponentially more stressful AP course load. Side effects include: caffeine addiction, existential crises, Google overuse, advanced procrastination skills, and a myriad of benefits that, I have been assured multiple times, will soon become apparent to me.
As all of my peers turned their attention to wooing various exorbitantly priced institutions, I began to question the path that was being pushed on me from all sides. I had a vague idea of the concept of a ‘gap year’ between high school and college, as an unrealistic, unattainable fantasy that was only available to John Green characters. However, as the stress of a demanding course load and intense rehearsal process began to snowball – catching SATs and college visits/applications along the way – a break from the routine began to look more and more appealing.
I began to spend my precious, meager free time daydreaming, alternating between entertaining romantic, half-formulated notions of an extended round-the-world trip that would never may or may not have come to fruition, and doggedly avoiding the more pragmatic realization that a gap year would most likely involve getting a job and paying my much-put-upon parents rent. In my mind, it was all or nothing – either the traditional survive-high-school, go-wild-in-college route, or hopping off the academic hamster wheel for a year in order to see what more was out there. Hardly a choice, really, though the logistics of such a gap year were daunting, to say the least. (Not to mention some not-so-subtle opposition from my aforementioned, tuition-paying parents.)
Luckily, the universe had other plans, presenting me with the Little Black Dress of solutions: the Febmester – simple, yet elegant.
Now, to backtrack a bit, I had decided on Middlebury College as my one and only true love my junior year, after visiting and falling head-over-heels in love. There were quite a few dragons to face before I could win the favor of my dashing liberal arts college in the form of the dreaded college application process. Namely, the Common App. The Common Application is used by Midd, among many other colleges, to salvage the (relative) sanity of prospective bright young intellectuals navigating the college application process. On Midd’s Common App, in the midst of writing a veritable novel about myself, I came across the statement “I wish to be considered for…” followed by 3 little boxes: ‘September admission’, ‘February admission’, and ‘both September and February admission’. In my sleep-deprived state, I gave this little thought beyond increasing my chance at admittance. So, I checked off the 3rd box, and the rest, as they say, is history. A serendipitous occurrence indeed.
(Note: I applied Early Decision, meaning that if I were accepted to Middlebury the decision was binding – essentially, I signed my soul away.)
The emotional turbulence I underwent between ‘Congratulations’ to that pesky ‘.5’ merited turning on the ‘Fasten Seatbelt’ sign. I was, to say the least, shocked – not to mention my poor parent’s reactions. Happily I have now embraced my new role as a ‘Feb’ (n., one who begins undergraduate studies at Middlebury College in February; plural, ‘Febs’; see also, Febmester, Feb-y.) and have been planning out a Febmester, or gap semester in layman’s terms, of epic proportions – more on that to come!
Perks of being a Feb (so far): taking a break from the academic treadmill, a clan of nearly 100 other Febs (read: instant friends), getting to ski down a hill wearing a cap and gown for graduation, still with others my age (versus an entire gap year), being called a Feb…
In short, though not what I pictured myself doing, I am absolutely ecstatic to embark upon my Febmester! I guess the moral of the story is, even when you stray from the path everyone else is following, or the one you expected to find yourself on, there are always exciting possibilities ahead.
I’d love if you’d share your thoughts with me below – comments, questions, concerns, monetary donations – all are welcome! 🙂