By Nathan Walker
DMACC Honors student
Are students ready to take their education seriously right after graduating from high school? The college world is fast paced and to excel you must be focused and know what you want out of your education. Their college education is what is going to give them the foundation for the careers which will be their future. As the old saying goes, you only get out of it, what you are willing to put into it.
Many students are simply not ready for college when coming out of high school. This may stem from a number of different reasons but the fact is, that it is beneficial to wait a year or two before pursuing your higher education, also referred to as “gap year”. While some kids are completely prepared and ready for college, I can personally attest this isn’t always the case as it was 4 years after my graduation from high school until I enrolled in college. While 4 years is a little too much time in my opinion, the benefits of waiting a year or two before going to college greatly outweigh the downfalls.
While I was in high school, I was much like the majority of kids. I couldn’t wait to get out of that prison and did what I had to do to get by and graduate. I didn’t know what I was going to do after graduating and had no clue as to what I wanted as a career. The expectation to apply for college and scholarships and take the ACT and do all these things was not at the top of my priorities. In the time after high school I learned more about myself and what I want in life than college could have ever taught me. After graduating from high school I moved from home and started life on my own. I worked a variety of different jobs including welding/machining, retail, working in tire shop, and HVAC that led me to conclude that I needed a college education in order to achieve what I want in life. I did a lot of growing up and in result of that I am now completely focused on my education and can put value to what is being taught in the classroom.
The facts are all around us, yet the expectation still holds that kids should head straight into an education for a career that they don’t even know about. Approximately 35% of students who enter college will drop out in their first year. That is about 4 out of 10 students who fail only in the first year of college. A 2011 report by The American Enterprise Institute found that the national average graduation rate of four-year colleges was only 53% for incoming students within their first six years, with graduation rates dipping to lows of around 30%. We can ask ourselves what is the cause for these poor graduation rates and the answers are quite clear. In 2011 Harvard University conducted research to answer this question. They found that the top 5 reasons that half of entering students do not complete their four-year degree to be money concerns, poor preparation, outside demands, too much too fast, and the “just a number effect”. Can these all really be related to students not being ready for college right out of high school? Financial responsibility can really only be taught by being self-reliant. Poor preparation stems from the demand that colleges have as compared to those high school classes that you didn’t have actually apply yourself in. Outside demands are things that happen in your life that you aren’t prepared for. By gaining real life experience after high school students can handle the demands of life because they have already been doing so for the last couple years on their own. Too much, too fast is simply being able to be responsible with your time. Many kids out of high school have priorities other than staying home and doing homework when all their friends are going out. Lastly, the “just a number” effect. If you are sitting in classroom with a hundred other students, chances are the professor doesn’t know your name, and they are not going to pressure you to keep up in class. You must have the motivation to learn the material because no one is holding your hand. The Wall Street Journal found that 90% of students who take a gap year returned to school after that year, while a gap year survey conducted by Milkround found that 88% of gap year graduates found that the gap year had significantly added to their employability. Robert Clagett, formerly of Harvard University and Middlebury College found that those who delay a year before attending college have, on average, 0.2 higher GPAs on 4.0 scale. That’s the difference of a quarter of a letter grade. Harvard University actually recommends taking a gap year, and includes this recommendation in their letter of admission. Coming from such a prestigious college as Harvard with a graduation rate of 97%, a gap year is something people should seriously consider.
The point is made that while 50% of entering college students do not make it to graduation, a lot is due to kids fresh out of high school just not being mentally ready for the college lifestyle. Whether it be from the lack of personal accountability for their own education, financial responsibility, or just being more interested in having a little too much fun with their friends. The cost of tuition and wasted time spent in classes that students are not paying attention to, add to benefit of taking that extra year or two out of high school. Like myself, you may go from an unmotivated high school kid to being an honors student that is about to graduate earning a 4.0 since starting college. Spend some time gaining experience, in work and in life, building relationships, learning more about yourself and what you want to pursue in life. These are all things that will not only help you when you go to college but also in that future career after obtaining a four year degree.
Nate Walker is from Carlisle, Ia. He will be transferring to Iowa State University after a year deployment with the Iowa Army National Guard to pursue a double major in Electrical Engineering and Mathematics. After graduation his goals are to work for NASA and eventually own his own engineering firm.