As you may or may not have read on another post, I spent the last academic year studying architecture at NC State University. I went in with the hope of learning the tools of a valuable profession that would utilize my creative and interpersonal skills, but after a year in the program I realized that the time expectations of the studio professors was totally out of line with what I am able to give, since I am working my way through school, and that ultimately, a career in architecture isn’t compatible with my overall life plan. So, here I am, 19 years old, 60+ college credits accumulated, and no major. What was I to do? I chose to take a year off to work, and although I’m only about 6 weeks in, so far, I think it’s going to pay off.
Maybe you’re considering a similar decision, or you know someone who is, or you just want to think about your hypothetical options. It’s always best to think about other options, so whatever your situation, I hope you get something out of this post. It took me a lot of thought, prayer, and reading to distill my tumultuous thoughts and feelings down to these lines of reasoning last semester, so hopefully I can save you some of the trouble!
#1: To get real-world experience.
Thanks to my experience writing at the campus newspaper, I’ve managed to land a full-time internship at my local newspaper. This is totally unrelated to my previous major, but it caters to some of my interests and strengths, it pays pretty well, it’s near my house, and best of all, I’m gaining valuable experience working in a professional setting with actual adults who have made careers in the news and advertising industries. I’m a reporter, so I’m also getting to investigate local crimes, talk with authorities and town officials, learn about the nuts and bolts of how my town is governed, and meet and write about many amazing local people and what they are doing in the community! Although I’m not progressing towards a college degree right now, I am most definitely gaining knowledge. The saying “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education,” attributed to Mark Twain, really resonates with me right now! I place a high value on formal education, but that doesn’t mean that I’m willing to forgo other kinds of education in the pursuit of a college degree if an opportunity comes my way. During my year at NC State, I was very surprised at how many of the people in my classes and studio weren’t “traditional” freshman. For instance, I know one guy who had served as a U.S. Marine and a girl who did a year at community college followed by a year of service before college. Both of them had grown and learned tremendous amounts through those experiences, developed as individuals, knocked out GEP classes, and saved a bunch of money to pay for school in advance.
#2: To give myself time to think and plan my education.
I now know that architecture isn’t the path for me, but the process of elimination isn’t a very efficient or cost-effective way to choose a major! Now that I’m in the process of selecting a new program of study, I need time to plan and evaluate before I dedicate valuable time and money to another major. I spent time throughout the course of high school researching architecture, I participated in mentor programs where I learned about the building design process, and I went on numerous school visits and tours and talked to many faculty members and students to learn about the discipline. But then I made some alterations to my life goals, and found out that I didn’t enjoy studio, and there went architecture! Thus, I realize that I must do equal or greater due diligence in selecting a new major. Currently, I’m exploring the field of journalism through my internship, and I’m also doing research on some other fields of study, some related some not, and planning what I can afford to spend on my education, and so forth. A year away from school to work and plan are enabling me to make a rational, calculated decision rather than rushing into picking something mid-semester just to avoid graduating a year later.
#3: To build up savings.
College, as I’m sure you all know, is insanely expensive. Even community college isn’t cheap these days! My parents are chipping in some, but I’m responsible for the bulk of my college expenses, as well as my car. So, since my savings were largely depleted by my first year (I lived on campus and got minimal scholarships), the idea of being paid $20,000 to learn rather than spending $25,0000 to learn is quite appealing. Taking this internship is allowing me to purchase a much-needed new car (well, new to me!) and replenish my beleaguered bank account. I could even get a job waitressing or dog-walking after hours if I really wanted to go all-out, but for the time being, 40 hours is plenty for me!
#4: To build my resume.
In today’s college world, as admissions, scholarships, and opportunities become more and more competitive, people expect to see impressive activities and accomplishments on resumes and applications. Having a full year of work experience in a responsible professional setting is going to be a lot more valuable credential than a few more college credits, which I can earn any time. Of course, I might very well have not gotten the internship, or maybe there could be some disaster and it won’t end up lasting more than a couple months. If not, that’s OK! There are so many amazing opportunities to develop skills. There are organizations to volunteer with, projects to start, committees to join, books to write, literally thousands of valuable and impressive ways to work towards becoming the well-rounded professional that most of us college kids are looking to be one day. A year off from school is a great opportunity to free up time and resources to focus on those things more intensively than is possible during a school year.
#5: To get some time with my family while I can
I’m 19 and my sister is 17, so we’re both in the “transitioning to adulthood” phase of life. I’m on the verge of getting engaged, and my sister is considering a variety of careers, some of which might involve a lot of traveling. My soon-to-be fiance and I are prayerfully considering him joining the military, which could mean a good bit of moving around for us. My parents are not far away from retirement age, and they want to move to a single-story house in the mountains of North Carolina when my dad retires. So the people that I love in the town that I love in the house that I love might soon be a thing of the past! While I’m excited for the adventures of the future, I’m also making sure to enjoy the wonderful parts of my family situation now while I can.
#6: To prove to myself that college is the path for me to take.
One reason that people often cite as to why you shouldn’t take time off from school is that a lot of kids who “take time off” actually drop out and never come back. The way I see it, that might not be such a bad thing! A lot of people don’t need college, and I’d like to know before I pay for a degree rather than after if I’m one of those people! I have a passion for learning and education, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to automatically assume that college is essential for me. Yes, I want to go, but I’m not in any hurry to squeeze myself into a mold that doesn’t suit me. While I plan to go back to school next year, I’m keeping an open mind! For all I know, I’ll end up becoming a missionary or a novelist and not need a degree–or I might decide to become a computer scientist and get the two years of school I still need and launch my career that way. There’s no knowing for sure just yet, so I’m taking a year to prove to myself that college is the best choice for me.
**Image courtesy of stockfreeimages.com and Dreamstime.