Mind the gap: An insight into WHS students taking gap years


Photo courtesy of Matteo Mancheno

Mancheno playing hockey for his former club team, the North Jersey Avalanche

Following the conclusion of this school year, many seniors will be leaving Westfield to take the next steps in their lives. While many graduating students are choosing to go to college, others are opting to defer their college education and take a gap year.

Taking a gap year allows students to enjoy new experiences before attending college. A gap year may be beneficial for students because it gives them time to consider what they want to focus on and what they might want to do for a career.

“Studies have shown that taking a gap year is not only tied to increases in college GPAs, but more significantly is tied to improved job satisfaction. In short, taking the time to figure out what success looks like is a surefire way to be directed in achieving it,” said the Gap Year Association, a nonprofit membership group for those with a common goal of ensuring at least a semester of gap year time is accessible to every high school graduate.

Popular options for gap years include traveling, volunteering and interning. Along with building experience in their chosen field, students who take gap years also build a social network that will benefit them when they attend college and afterwards when they are searching for a career.

Matteo Mancheno
Mancheno is taking two gap years in order to pursue his passion for hockey in a junior hockey leagues. These leagues, including the North American Hockey League and United States Hockey League, develop young players to play Division I hockey. Mancheno reflected on his decision to delay his college enrollment. “It’s pretty much what the majority of players do when they’re looking to play in college. You go out, you live with a host family and you play there. It’s just all to prepare you to play [Division I],” said Mancheno. After his two years in junior hockey, Mancheno hopes to play hockey for a college hockey powerhouse, such as Ohio State University or Penn State University.

Grace Kilbourn
Kilbourn has opted to take one gap year. In the fall, she plans to volunteer on a coffee farm on Isabela Island in the Galapagos. For the second half of the year, Kilbourn hopes to volunteer at community centers and soup kitchens in South America. One of her goals for this gap year is to improve her Spanish. She said, “I’m really excited to speak Spanish. Being bilingual has been a dream of mine.” Kilbourn is also eager to meet new people along her journey. Regarding her decision to delay her college experience, Kilbourn said, “My mom took a gap year so it’s always been on my radar. I think the time between high school and college is a natural time of transition.” Despite her international plans for the gap year, Kilbourn participated in the 2023 college admissions process, deferring her admission to Colgate University until fall 2024.