From time to time, I’ve reprinted Staples principal John Dodig’s thoughts from the PTA newsletter, “For the Wreckord.”
This time, the newsletter’s insights come from a 2010 graduate, Harry Moritz. Whether you’ve got a child now of any age, are a kid today — or once were one — his words are worth reading.
Staples has more opportunities for its students than many other high schools in this country. For me, Staples was a place to explore my creativity through the variety of art classes that were available.
However, being the unsettled teenager I was (as are many teenagers), I quickly rejected subjects that to me made little “sense”– such as math. My first 3 years in high school were overall positive and exciting. But the moment I heard that I had gotten into college, high school seemed more meaningless to me than ever. The idea of even trying in math class was more pointless to me than it was useful or productive. I just wanted to be free.
By December of senior year I felt very unmotivated. I dragged my feet to school, seemingly unhappy with my situation: Why did I have to go to high school? I thought of school as such a burden, and could not wait until I was done.
Sometime in the early winter months I began asking myself if going to college straight after high school would be the best idea for myself. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to attend college but I simply was not ready. I thought, “What is the reason for spending $50,000 a year on a college that I am not mentally prepared for?”
It was this question that has made my life as amazing as it has been. I decided that I would take one year off before attending college in order to get my brain in the right place. So, upon graduating I worked endlessly throughout the summer in order to save money. At the end of August 2010 I left Westport and began my journey. The details of my year are not as important as what it is I am trying to explain.
The important aspects of my year off are the lessons that I learned: Hard work, keeping an open mind and staying positive. These 3 attributes are what I acquired by taking a year off.
For a parent, it may seem very far off that your child should ever be set free into this world of madness. However, the qualities that can be achieved through experiences of traveling, farming and connecting with nature are what truly feeds the work ethic and responsibility to get the most out of a college education.
For some, college is a party. Classes can take a back seat for too many students, especially in their first year when they are finally “free” from their parents. With all of the drinking and drugs readily available to students on a college campus, it is no wonder why a freshman year (if not longer) can turn into an endless time of debauchery.
For me, taking a year off put this behavior in perspective. Not only that, but I gained a sense of independence to where I felt that I did not need to give in to peer pressures of just “hanging out” or going to a party.
I realized that I have my own individual characteristics and passions that in order to feed, I must prioritize my time. I came to understand that partying is not what college should really be about.
College is about challenging oneself, and in turn gaining knowledge and personal beliefs about the world in which we live.
Through my experiences I learned what the balance of opposites truly means (otherwise known as the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang). Our lives are balanced by what are sometimes seen as imbalances. What I have found through my experiences is that the time I took to travel and the work I put in on farms directly correlates to the mentality and work ethic that I hold in college. Without my year off, my college experience would be completely different (and in many cases much less satisfying).
So, for any parent to who feels that a gap year between high school and college is a complete waste of time or that it may have a negative impact on your son or daughter: Please reconsider.
It is actually an investment. It is an investment in their lives and yours. All too often our society urges people to rush from one thing to the next. Rushing will not enable anyone to get the most out of what it is they are trying to achieve. By taking a year off, your son or daughter will have time to develop the part of themselves that is completely individual. This aspect will in turn yield a happy and wholesome sense of well-being, while building up a work ethic that will directly impact their mindset upon attending college.
Harry welcomes any questions, from anyone: firstname.lastname@example.org