Gap year gives perspective

Princeton’s gap year program should be implemented at more universities.

Dominant American ideology doesn’t offer students much flexibility within the education system. We are expected to jump from high school to higher education and straight into the job market at 22, pushing paper or crunching numbers long enough to pay back student loans and earn a respectable living. Princeton University plans to address this rigid system by facilitating a year of social service work abroad for incoming students before they begin their academic studies on campus.

Princeton would defer enrollment and pair students with organizations all over the world to give them a global perspective and allow them to mature before embarking on their education. While not lucrative for Princeton – it’s not a high price tag study abroad program – encouraging a “gap year” for students who want to give back to society is an innovative idea that should be encouraged on a broad level at U.S. universities.

Unfortunately, taking time off school or delaying a career after graduation often comes with the stigma of being directionless. Universities should be encouraging students to take the proper amount of time to find their passions and meaningful career paths. The gap year idea gives people breathing room to cultivate interests and perspective instead of their bank accounts and the stock price of a large company.

The idea of public service in our country is largely put on the shoulders of those who volunteer for military or national security services. Other public service programs such as Teach for America and Peace Corps require an intense commitment, making them less appealing. A year-long program that is structured through universities would provide an accessible way for students to provide a public service.

Those fortunate enough to attend universities are those that will someday be leaders and decision makers to varying extents. And in a global market, executive decisions will most likely affect a large number of people. Gaining a global perspective by doing social service work can only help those in power make more responsible decisions.