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Not getting a job straight out of college is OK, and can be encouraged

When I was a senior in high school, people always asked me what I was doing after graduation. I was proud to tell them about my plans for my gap year. 

At that point in my life, I had barely left the country, never lived away from my parents and was itching for an adventure. Plus, I needed a break from schoolwork and my hometown. 

After receiving my diploma, I moved to England and worked at a boarding school. I lived there with other recent graduates my age doing the same thing I was: taking a year off before university. 

I had a busy schedule, but I also had weekends and school breaks to travel around Europe. In roughly 10 months, I visited eight countries and several cities in England. 

At first, the adults I talked to would be impressed with my plan. They would say that they wished they had done this when they were my age. But, quickly, they would double-check that I was going to go to college after a year, with a concerned look on their face. 

Yes, I always planned on going to college, but I had no idea what I wanted to study and I figured I would rather take a year off and decide later. 

“College will always be there,” my dad said. 

It made sense that he and my mom fully supported my gap year. My dad took one between high school and college, too, as well as between undergrad and graduate school, and with my mom after their first year of marriage. 

I admire him for having such an open mind regarding the progression of his life. We care too much about getting through high school and college and straight into a stable job to start building our careers. To many, a career marks a successful life, and we want to get there as soon as we can. 

According to Miami University’s website, 99% of 2022 graduates were hired or in school by fall 2022. That’s great for Miami. But there are other ways to define success after graduation. 

What about my older brother, who is pursuing his passion for skiing as a seasonal instructor in Colorado? And what about my sister, a recent Miami graduate, who will spend this summer working at an adventure park in North Carolina, simply because she wants to spend some time by the beach? 

If we stop for a minute and think about the grand scheme of our lives, we may realize that taking a year or so to explore our interests can be exciting and enriching. 

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We have the freedom to do this right after graduation. Once you commit to a job or another year of school, you won’t be able to take off months at a time. 

Additionally, if you wait too long, you will likely have car payments, rent or grad school tuition to pay. Seasonal jobs pay some, but not enough to cover these payments plus travel expenses.

I am aware that traveling can be expensive. A gap year doesn’t require you to fly all over Europe for months and months. You don’t even need to leave your hometown if you don’t want to. The point is to take some time to explore an existing interest or try new things, and gain some perspective on your life moving forward. 

Also, traveling is different from going on vacation. Exploring different countries on a budget includes youth hotels, sleeping on friends’ couches and endless rides on public transport. The goal is to experience a new environment; it’s not about fancy hotels. 

A gap year can be a low-risk experience, it’s all about how you plan it. The schedule is fully customizable to who you are and what you want to do. 

If you need structure in your life, plan everything ahead of time. Find a seasonal gig somewhere,  then book plane tickets and hostels all before you leave. You could even line up a “real job” for later. 

Speaking of “real jobs,” employers love to see these kinds of things on resumes. This life experience will make you stand out in a room filled with others fighting for the same job. 

If you crave spontaneity and have the means, catch a cheap flight somewhere and see where it takes you. Take six months, or a year and a half, but find something that makes sense for you and take the leap. You never know, it might lead to something amazing.

I don’t know about you, but I don't want to be the 80-year-old woman wishing she had done more than just work.

I want to be the one telling beautiful stories of her meaningful life. 

Molly Francis is a sophomore journalism and media and communications double major from Cincinnati. She began writing for The Miami Student opinion section this year.