OPINION: College doesn’t have to be immediate

Maria DiFelice, Assistant Op/Ed Editor

Picture this: It’s your senior year of high school, and you are trying to decide what college you want to go to. You ask yourself if you want to go to a big sports school up north or a small liberal arts school down south. Everything is coming together. You are leaning more towards the sports school up north, but decide that you need more information and schedule a tour for the spring.

Suddenly, a pandemic hits and everything in your life comes to a screeching halt.

This was me in March of 2020 when the world shut down.

During quarantine I had online classes, and it’s safe to say that Zoom school is not my preferred style of learning. I realized I was getting drained and not learning anything. I had no motivation to do work, and I knew it would only get worse when I got to college. My desire to commit to a college was not there, and I didn’t have any aspirations to go.

Not only were my counselors and my parents expecting me to go to college, but there was also added societal pressure. If you don’t go to college, then you won’t be “successful.”

While I was still deciding whether I even wanted to go to college, my classmates were already committing to colleges.

I decided to commit to Xavier University in Ohio because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you get out of high school, right?

After paying my deposit, I felt like I had made a huge mistake.

I kept telling myself my feelings were normal and I was just nervous. I thought I needed to go to college right after high school because that’s what society expects of us.

Nothing was making the idea of going to college any better for me. I then realized this wasn’t a nervous feeling; it was a feeling of regret.

I regretted my decision to choose Xavier. I regretted putting in the deposit. And most of all, I regretted trying to be like everyone else. I never want to be a follower. I march to the beat of my own drum. So, I talked with my parents, and I decided to defer a year to figure out what I wanted.

I originally planned on shadowing people at a local news station, but the pandemic was restricting everything, so that fell through. Then, I moved on to plan B: to work as a waitress.

The pandemic affected that as well, especially in the winter when I got furloughed. Then, I picked up a job as a dog walker until my restaurant job would let me work again.

All my friends were in college, making new friends, and having the time of their lives. Meanwhile, I was at home scrolling through their social media feeds, feeling more alone than ever. I would get FaceTime calls here and there from them, but it didn’t make me feel any better.

I was alone, and I felt like my friends were at a different stage of life. And they were, but that only made me feel inferior.

As my gap year was going by, I realized that everyone turns the page at different moments, and it takes a longer time for some people to make that turn.

Even though I would never trade the last year for anything, it was anything but easy. But I learned a lot of valuable lessons, and I am so grateful I took the time to figure out the next chapter in my life.

I had to reapply to Xavier for the fall semester of 2021, and as I was reapplying, I decided to look into more colleges. That’s when I found Loyola. I heard that they had a strong mass communication program, and my heart was already set to go. I mean, going to school in New Orleans or Ohio? You can imagine there was no hesitation there.

Finally, I had turned my page.

If most people that have taken a gap year can agree on one thing, it’s that if they didn’t take that year off, they wouldn’t be the person they are today.

I agree. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t taken my gap year.

Instead of teaching high schoolers that college is an immediate, necessary step to their futures, we should be teaching them that college isn’t going away, and they can go to college whenever they want.

We as humans need to take our own paths and learn that turning our pages at different paces is okay.

Applying to Loyola was the best decision I’ve ever made. I have been able to do so much during my first semester here, and I have made amazing memories that will last a lifetime.

Taking a gap year helped me figure out the next chapter I wanted in life. Even though it took longer for me to realize, I have no regrets, and I encourage those struggling to take that time too.