Why you should take a gap year

I Took A Year Off From College And I Don't Regret It One Bit

No, I didn't go backpacking in Europe to go find myself.

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There is something I don't really like talking about when meeting new people. It's the fact that I took a year off of my college education to pursue a dream and a once in a lifetime opportunity. On June 16th, 2016, I was elected to serve as the 2016-2017 Illinois FFA State Secretary to represent the over 17,000 Illinois FFA members.

This position requires a year's worth of dedication, crazy hours, courage, and spending each week with only a few bags in a car as you travel all over the place. I am proud of this experience I gained. The reason why I am hesitant about sharing this fact because one, there is more to me that this year off of school, and I want people to get to know me rather than just this position I served in. Secondly, I feel like there is a lot more to me about myself is that I think some people don't understand that sometimes you need to take the path less traveled and do something different, like take a year off of college.

How many people in their early twenties have the opportunity to speak in front of several thousand people about their life and personal journey without fear of public speaking? How many people experience going to the National Capital to talk with staff members about the importance of agriculture and their passions while being taken seriously? How many of you can say you feel like you have made a positive impact on individuals around you while being positively affected by them at the same time?

I learned about so much about myself during this year. You do a lot of self-reflection when you are traveling non-stop and are meeting people from all over. Being on a team that lives and works together taught me about how I fit into groups and how to maneuver through the good and the bad. I found role models, family, and friends that will help me for the rest of my life. I discovered my love of travel because of driving across the state of Illinois, traveling across the country, and being able to go to South Africa for ten days. Each and every moment of that year of my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly has changed me for the better.

I realize that I have delayed my life by a year. I am older than most people in my grade. I will graduate a year later than most people my age, and I won't start in the workforce until I am 23. My plans in life are all pushed back now.

Admittedly, sometimes I wonder where I would be if I wouldn't have taken that year off and think about the what if's of my life.

Reflecting on everything that has happened to me since that very moment in June, I can confidently say I don't regret taking a year off because the experiences I gained during my year of service have helped me grow and learn so much more than I ever would have learned in a classroom. Isn't one year of tremendous personal and professional growth worth taking a year off of school?

I'm not saying that everyone and their mother should take time off from education, I am saying that if you are offered something that won't ever happen again in your life, take it. There will always be colleges and some sort of educational institutes once you are finished. So you can call me a college dropout during that time period, crazy for delaying my future, and give me that "you're crazy and lazy for taking time off of your education" look. I know that taking a year off of college and this experience has been one of the best things that has happened to me so far in my life.

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

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The College Experience

A series telling the true experiences of modern day college students.

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Everyone tells you to prepare for the best years of your life.

They tell you to prepare for all of the new challenges and new opportunities.

They say that you will meet your future people in college.

What they don't tell you is how much it will hurt.

Seeing old friends disappear because you are no longer home.

Watching your grades fall because the class is too difficult to pass.

Hearing and witnessing your family struggle and you aren't able to be with them.

Seeing all of the adventures that others are going on while you are stuck in your dorm room with the same stack of papers you have been trying to finish for three days now.

They don't tell you how difficult the transition will be.

They especially don't tell you how hard it is to live with someone.

The best of friends can live together and then grow to hate each other.

Complete strangers will move in and never speak.

You'll find friends that are simply just your "writing friend" or "band friend".

Many of the labels from high school can sometimes stick around.

If you're not out drinking or clubbing, then people think you don't have a life.

College is great, but don't think that it will be easy.

You have to make things easy in order for things to happen.

You can't just go around doing whatever and expect things to work out.

It takes time and it takes commitment to succeed in life, and in college.

The best way to deal with it all, find someone!

Find someone that you can get coffee with and watch sports with.

Find someone to eat dinner and lunch with.

Find someone to study religion and math before the next test.

Find someone!

Find your someone, a friend or someone special, to help you make it through everything that life throws at you.

If I had that someone I might have been better off my first year.

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