By SIERRA SIZEMORE
Peter Georgiou and Cameron Bohl, also known as The Van Boys, decided a gap year was their best option before taking the plunge into real-world responsibilities.
Georgiou, sophomore in mechanical engineering at Kansas State University, and Bohl, 2018 high-school graduate, had been planning their journey for more than three years. In late September, as their classmates were preparing for mid-terms, the two set out on their mission to reach 49 of the 50 United States. More than two months later, The Van Boys have been to and through 10 states and counting. The interior of their fully reconstructed Ford Cobra is complete with a full-size mattress, overhead storage, and mood lighting. The van in total cost around $6,500, but is a small price to pay for a fully custom mobile home.
Bohl graduated from Olathe North High School in Kansas in May 2018, however, he had known since his sophomore year that he wanted to take a gap year after graduation.
“I had been swimming competitively for about 13 years,” Bohl said. “I’d always told myself I was gonna go to college, study law and swim on a scholarship. Early into my sophomore year I realized that I truly didn’t enjoy the sport anymore.”
Studies show that an estimated 20 to 50 percent of students enter college with doubts about their career paths. Bohl is among the average 35 percent of students who are unsure of what they want to do in their work life. The same study also shows that nearly 75 percent of college students change their major at least once before graduation.
“I also realized that I only wanted to be a lawyer for the money,” Bohl said. “I didn’t actually care about being a lawyer. In fact, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. So I didn’t want to go straight to school, waste all this money and waste all of this time getting a degree I didn’t necessarily want.”
Bohl says he’s always had an alternative outlook on higher education. While he doesn’t plan on ever making it to college, Georgiou has a different idea. He plans to complete his studies after the year-long journey, but it does come with concerns.
“My concerns about going back to school will be finding the motivation to do school work I don’t want to do,” Georgiou said. “And keeping my life interesting in Kansas.”
The majority of students who take a gap year come back to school more motivated and eager to complete their studies, but this may not be the case for all. One of the main reasons students take gap years are to find and define themselves and some find that a college education is totally unnecessary.
“We’ve met lots of people that are doing just fine without a college education,” Georgiou said. “[This time off] also made it apparent that life isn’t about getting a job that makes a lot of money. Quality of life isn’t dependent on an education.”
While experts don’t always encourage students to take gap years, it is apparent that they often find fulfillment during their downtime. When asked about money, The Van Boys were eager to clarify. Bohl and Georgiou said they started saving their summer paychecks as soon as their plan was set into motion.
“I’m willing to spend every last dime to my name to make this trip more fulfilling,” Georgiou said. “I think everyone should take the time to do what they want. Even for a short time it’s still worth it.”
Georgiou and Bohl say their families and friends were supportive of their idea despite the initial hesitations from one side of the party. Bohl’s parents were excited about the idea, however, Georgiou’s were a little more hesitant. He said he explained the experiences and the people he would meet along the way and they quickly climbed on board. Despite their initial hesitation regarding, the pat on the back was a motivating factor.
“My parents asked me one day at dinner what I wanted to do after high school and I told them nervously that I wanted to travel,” Bohl said. “My dad said “that’s badass,” my mom says she supports whatever I decide to do. So that was the moment I knew that I wanted to travel and explore.”
The idea of a gap year is growing more popular as a survey conducted by Hostelworld Group shows that 26 percent of respondents had taken one. More than 50 percent of respondents between 18 and 30 who had not previously taken a gap year, said they would consider doing so at some point before or after college.
High-school and college students are more often considering the possibility of taking a gap year. The trend began in India in the 1970s and later spread to Australia, Britain, and is now becoming mainstream in the United States.
The most common motivating factor that leads a student to a gap year is the desire to find themselves or take the time to figure out exactly what they want out of life. Some of the most successful people in the world took gap years, as well. Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, and Mike Zuckerberg all benefited from taking a break before or during college.
There is a long-standing argument between high-school students and universities about the responsibility that is inflicted on the teenagers as they transition into college. Incoming college freshmen are expected to make decisions on the basis of their future at 18 years old and students often feel pressure from both the university and their parents to choose a path of study that will be most financially beneficial.
Millennials are breaking the barriers previous generations have built and some are overlooking monetary success in their career paths. Rather than achieving a degree that will make the most money, they are working toward things that truly make them happy, increasing their quality of life.
The gap year trend is becoming more popular in the United States because of the systemic ideal that requires students to sit in a classroom for 8 hours per day in high-school. Teenagers become restless and often resent the school system as a whole, sometimes leading students to a gap year.
As for high-school students or incoming college freshmen, there are concerns of decreased chances of admission acceptance, however, most times it is proven to be opposite. Admissions councils are all but encouraging students to take gap years.
Jeffrey Blahnik, Executive Director of admissions at the University of Oklahoma, says the stigma around students who opt for gap years in previous years is quickly evaporating.
“If a student lets us know that they plan to take a gap year,” Blahnik said, “We encourage them to apply and then provide the explanation and we will actually defer their admission for a year.”
The American Gap Association reports that 75 percent of students who take gap years feel that their experiences during their time off increased their skill levels, and gap year students return to school at a rate of 90 percent.
“Students who take advantage of a gap year have the added life experience of work or travel which often makes them more prepared and ready for college,” Blahnik said.
Admissions boards are optimistic about students who take gap years due to the maturity and greater sense of self they possess. Students who are admitted to college after taking a gap year are statistically proven to have a 0.1 to 0.4 point higher GPA than that of their counterparts, according to a study conducted by Robert Cladgett, former dean of Middlebury College.
The pros of taking a gap year far outweigh the cons because, at the end of the day, school and homework and jobs will always be an option. For young adults, gap years promote pushing limits and leaving their comfort zones. The ways in which everyone does these things are different, however, the pursuit of happiness is an opportunity given to all Americans.
As Cameron Bohl said, “happiness is success; success is not monetary.”
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