Post-graduation plans: Senior gap year student plans

Mei Xu

 

For some high school seniors, the traditional path after graduation is going to a two-year or four-year institution of higher education. For others, that path leads to a gap year: a time for students to reflect on their high school careers and take the necessary steps to prepare themselves for the future. 

Senior Adrian Clement chose to take a gap year due to his growing passion for swimming. Clement has been a competitive swimmer for the past 12 years and currently swims with the Portland Aquatic Club. He has hopes of being recruited to swim, specializing in short distance, for a college team next year. 

“One of my biggest hopes for my gap year is that afterwards I [will hopefully] get recruited for college swimming… I’ve been swimming competitively at a club since I was five years old. When I originally applied for colleges this past fall, I was really prioritizing the academic side and was not really considering whether or not I wanted to swim in college or not,” said Clement. 

Clement attributes his increased love for swimming to the way that it has aided him throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Over the course of the pandemic, my passion for swimming has grown a lot more… it’s become my outlet for how I relieve myself of stress and find joy in what can be considered hard times,” said Clement. 

However, this year, there was not a high school swim season because the facilities Portland Interscholastic League (PIL) relies on were closed. Despite the challenge of a lacking swim season, this has not stopped Clement from continuing practicing and bettering his swimming skills. 

“Especially over the past few months, I’ve had my first few competitions in over a year. During that time I really outperformed what I thought I was capable of, [which] caught the attention of myself like, ‘Oh, if this is what I can do with limited amount of training due to pandemic closures, where can I lead that potential if I were to continue swimming on a college level?’” Clement said. “I think my biggest motivation to take this gap year is to continue this passion in college and see where my potential can lead me to with strong training.”

In his most recent swim competition, the 2021 TYR 18&U Spring Cup in Iowa, Clement even set a personal record. 

“About a month ago, I attended a swim meet in Des Moines, Iowa where I dropped nearly a second in my 50 meter freestyle… I got my Summer Junior Nationals Time Standard, which is second to only the Olympic trials,” said Clement.

Despite his many motivations to take a gap year, making the final decision was not an easy one.

“The gap year was definitely a hard choice for me because I have always had a plan after high school to go to college. I feel like there is more of a stigma for taking a gap year, especially for being a student who is enrolling in rigorous classes,” said Clement. “I had to talk with a lot of my friends and my parents and especially my coaches on whether or not taking a year off of my life and starting a year later was worth it to pursue this passion of swimming. In the end, I ultimately decided it was because having that resource of swimming and having the community it gives you is enough to warrant enough to focus on yourself and postponing college.”

Throughout his gap year, Clement not only wishes to focus on swimming, but also on deepening his exploration of his academic interests. 

“I will also be looking towards finding internships… In the case I am not able to find any, I will be taking a part-time job or taking computer science courses at a local community college,” said Clement. 

Looking forward into the future, Clement is excited not only to have the possibility of continuing his swimming career, but also to be a part of a new community.

“Moving to a new area and meeting new people is going to be super fun in college. Also being able to take more classes that are gauged towards my academic interest is definitely appealing to me,” he explained.

Senior Zoё Jacobs is also taking a gap year this year. She will be attending Scripps College in fall of 2022 and hopes that her plans during her gap year will aid her future interest of environmentalism work and help boost her Spanish skills. 

Jacobs will attend two programs offered through Adventures Rolling Cross-Country (ARCC), and her summer will be split into two semesters of learning.

“My first semester will be in the Pacific Northwest. It’s an academic program, so it is a lot of learning about environmental issues [and] systems and how [environmental issues] affects communities… We will also be finding projects that community-based organizations are working on… It’s also a lot of camping as well this first semester,” said Jacobs.

In her next semester, Jacobs plans to go to Central America with ARCC to continue her gap year. She is excited to be able to practice her Spanish and find the intersection of her two interests of environmentalism and language. 

“The next [semester] is in Central America and it still focuses on environmental sustainability, but also Spanish language learning,” said Jacobs. “[Spanish] is something I want to continue learning from high school into my life… Especially this year, I might have gotten worse during online learning in Spanish so I’m hoping I will be able to touch up on my skills. I hope to have an environmental-based job when I’m older so this will give me some hands-on experience.”

In addition to fueling her passion for environmentalism, Jacobs is also excited to immerse herself in experiences in different countries if the pandemic allows.

“One of the places we are going is Costa Rica. I don’t know how it will work with COVID-19, but I’m pretty sure we will be staying in hostels, but of course that is up to change with everything going on in the world and the world being so uncertain. I haven’t traveled in a very long time and I’m very excited to see different parts of the world,” said Jacobs. 

In between the first and second semester of her ARCC gap year program, Jacobs hopes to find more opportunities related to environmentalism.

“I really want to do a farm exchange work-away… There are lots of opportunities for youth, and in return for working the farm, they will teach you a lot about sustainable agriculture,” said Jacobs. 

In making the decision of taking a gap year, Jacobs knew from a young age that she would want to take a gap year. Despite this, making the final decision to do so was still a difficult process. 

“From when I was younger, I knew a gap year would be something that I was interested in doing. This year I actually had to make the decision and it was honestly a very hard decision because… I know what college I’m going to, I’m going to Scripps next year, but I didn’t know if I should have just started in the fall and played it safe,” explained Jacobs. 

However, with the support of her parents, Jacobs was able to fulfill her desire to take a gap-year. 

“My parents were very supportive and I’m very lucky that they are letting me pursue my interest. Since I have that really unique opportunity, I thought, why not try and learn some stuff. I think that it will be a very interesting way to learn by being very hands on,” said Jacobs. 

Jacobs hopes that her experience will help her build a more clear vision for her future and she is also excited to explore more of the area that she is from. 

“I’m really excited to get more hands-on experience of a job I want to have. Now it’s a lot more theoretical. It’ll be super cool to see if what I think I am passionate about is actually what I am passionate about,” said Jacobs. “Also I am very excited to see both the Pacific Northwest or if I go to Costa Rica… because even though I have grown up here, I haven’t seen a lot. I’m really excited to be out in nature and connect with it. There are also some states that we are going to, like Wyoming and Montana that I have never been to. I am excited to see what the Pacific Northwest has to offer.”

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