Earlier this month, we learned that Malia Obama, oldest daughter of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, will attend Harvard University, but only after first taking a gap year (also known as a bridge year). This type of educational trajectory has traditionally been more common in Europe, but Harvard actually encourages the practice, and around 100 of their students choose to take advantage of the option each year.
Despite the rising cost of tuition, college is still worth the time, effort, and investment. However, learning and growth can happen outside of the bounds of the traditional classroom environment, as well. A rising trend among students (President Obama's daughter Malia included), is to take a gap year before beginning college – a time to travel, have new experiences, learn new things, volunteer, and so on.
Four years ago, I was sitting in my college dorm in Conway, Arkansas, wondering why paying $39,290 a year possibly made sense. I had come to college with hopes that it would make me a better person, but I soon realized that I would learn far more by going out to experience that world, rather than paying people tell me about the world. Disillusioned with school, I left.