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MU students see positives in gap years

By Lisa Trowbridge, For The Miami Student

When it comes to post-graduation plans - whether after high school or college - most students move on to the next step in their educations or careers immediately after graduating. However, some students choose to take a "gap year."

In a recent survey, less than half of 1 percent of Miami graduates from the previous year said they were not in graduate school, holding jobs or seeking jobs, according to Director of Career Services Michael Goldman.

Of the few not included in the 99.6 percent, many chose to travel or join a structured gap year program.

Miami alumnus Forrest McGuire ('14) took a 14-month trip to Europe and Southeast Asia after college.

"I just had a pivotal moment the end of my junior year where I realized that going straight into a job in business and doing that until I retire just didn't cut it out for me," said McGuire.

His time abroad let him experience new things that caused him to think and understand things beyond what he was accustomed.

"My whole worldview and my perspective have changed because of it," McGuire said.

When it comes to long-term consequences of his gap year, he said it has been positive in the professional field, as well.

"A lot of people think that employers look down on not having worked in a year, but for me, in a lot of the interviews I've had now, they're really engaging with it," McGuire said. "It's never a negative experience with employers."

Aside from the .04 percent of Miami grads who take gap years after graduation, there are also a number of first-year students who took gap years after high school.

According to last year's admissions statistics, there were 193 domestic and 572 international applicants with graduation dates of 2014 and earlier, meaning they did not go straight from high school to college.

Of these, only about 13 to 15 percent were admitted, compared to the overall acceptance rate of 66 percent. This difference indicates students who took a gap year were less likely to be accepted than those who applied during high school.

While taking a gap year can be risky, for some, it is worth it to take the time to explore their interests further.

Farmer School of Business career adviser Angelina LaLima said a gap year could be a good opportunity for those looking at their long-term goals.

"It's sort of a training, and for a student still thinking about their long-term goals, this is an opportunity to see where they want to go after," LaLima said.

First-year Kiefer Sherwood took this opportunity. After graduating high school, he took two years to travel and play hockey with the Youngstown Phantoms, then continued his education here.

"It helped me mature a little bit and experience life on my own, so I've become a lot more independent," Sherwood said. "It's a lot different coming into college as a 20-year-old, and having to refocus."

However, despite some changes he has had to make in order to adjust to school, and the barrier his gap year made for him during the admission process, Sherwood said he is glad he did it, and feels that it allowed him to be more prepared for adult life.

Senior Assistant Director and Liaison of the College of Arts and Science Mary Beth Barnes said that the value a gap year provides depends on the person.

"Ultimately, you have to think about what's best for you and how you're going to grow," Barnes said. "It's about taking your experiences and evolving them to get to that next step."

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