Students broaden their horizons with gap years


“I really want to figure out who I am outside of being a student at school for the past 13 years,” said junior Gabriela Almeida-Gere. The prospect of going to college right after high school is limiting to Almeida-Gere, which is why she has decided to take a gap year after she graduates Berkeley High School in 2024. During her gap year, Almeida-Gere still plans to go to college, just not in the U.S.

The program she would apply to, called AFS, allows students to go to school in a different country of their choosing. Almeida-Gere believes that this would allow her to gain many new experiences before she comes back and goes to college in the states. She expressed excitement to travel to a different country and find out what it’s like to live somewhere that’s unlike California.

Almeida-Gere is not the only one in her family who wanted to take a gap year — her father took a gap year after graduating high school. Almeida-Gere’s parents know that she is studious and committed to school, so they expressed support for the idea of her taking a gap year. Although her parents’ support was part of the reason Almeida-Gere decided to take a gap year, this wasn’t the only way her family has influenced her choice to take a gap year.

“My mom is Brazilian but I don’t really have connection with that culture,” Almeida-Gere said, the reason why she wants to take her gap year in Brazil. Almeida-Gere felt like she hasn’t had a connection to her Brazilian culture, and spending a year in the country would help build that relationship. She would like to go to a Spanish speaking country as well, so she could use the language skills she has gathered from the Spanish classes she has taken at BHS.

For Sage Dillemuth, taking a gap year was a way to make the college application process less stressful. As a senior, school has been challenging for Dillemuth, and taking a gap year would allow him to build up his resume before applying to college. Dillemuth plans to take free college classes online to get more college credit before applying to University of California, Berkeley.

“As I started doing PIQs, and all of my like IB like homework, I was like, ‘I don’t really have the mental capacity to do this,’ and my teachers didn’t give me a lot of extra heads up on late work and stuff. I was just running out of time. So then I decided to not do applications at all and (instead) do a gap year,” Dillemuth said. He started thinking about taking a gap year his junior year, but decided against it in November of his senior year. Both of his parents attended UC Berkeley after taking a gap year, which influenced his decision to take a gap year and then apply for UC Berkeley. Although most people he told about his decision to take a gap year were supportive, some people were worried that he wouldn’t finish his college applications in time and not be able to go to college after his gap year.

“Personally, I hope that more people do gap years in the future,” Dillemuth said. He believes that many students would gain a lot of benefits from a gap year that he hopes he will have. Dillemuth also hopes to talk to next year’s BHS senior class to inform them on the benefits he’s found from taking a gap year. Dillemuth thinks students worry too much about building a resume in their Senior year rather than the classes they are currently taking, which is what he found was the most stressful about applying to colleges in his Senior year.

Dillemuth noticed a pattern in what students are willing to do to get into the college of their choice. “I was just looking at the student handbook for 2023 student elections, and it’s just all these people making audacious claims just to get the title of ‘I was high school student senior leadership,’” Dillemuth explains. He would rather build up his academic resume than have a student leadership title in high school.

Gap years present an alternative for students to take a break from consecutively being in school and do something different. As similarly-feeling students realize that they don’t necessarily have to go to college right after high school, although that’s what most students choose to do, they could instead benefit from a gap year even if they don’t think they will.