Correction: This story has been modified from its original version. — This article has been modified from its original version to accurately reflect Shelley Blumenthal's gender. The Collegiate Times regrets this error.
Despite a trend toward students taking gap years worldwide, the numbers at Virginia Tech remain limited.
According to GapYear.com, students who choose to defer university admission for a year following high school are known as "gappers.”
Amy Widner, undergraduate admissions spokeswoman, said there is not a large number of “gappers” at Tech.
“It’s not that common here; it’s less than 1 percent of the class,” Widner said.
According to Widner, 27 students requested to defer from the incoming class of 2014.
For Tech students who have taken gap years, the reasons for their decision to take a year off vary widely.
Claus Farsinsen, a Tech student from Denmark, took more than three years off after high school to work and decide what he wanted to major in.
“It’s fairly common in Europe,” Farsinsen said. “I don’t think any of my friends didn’t do it.”
Farsinsen said that differences in education systems in Europe compared to the U.S. could explain the inconsistency.
“In my country you go straight into your major — you go to medical school, or law school, or whatever it may be — so you don’t have a freshman year to decide,” Farsinsen said.
He said he would not have had any idea what he wanted to do without taking several years off.
Karl Haigler, author of “The Gap-Year Advantage,” said many in the U.S. are wary of taking a year off.
“I think there are some barriers to the idea,” Haigler said. “A lot of students are concerned that if they take time off they might get behind.”
Haigler said the time off could create a “really tough transition.”
However, Haigler said 90 percent of students in the U.S. who take a gap year return to school after one year.
Widner said students who return “typically come back more ready to start their studies.
“For travel or perhaps to work — those are really good life experiences that benefit the student,” Widner said.
Tobias Hofmeister, an exchange student at Tech from Germany, spent part of his gap year speaking to German students about helping children in Kosovo.
Hofmeister said his experiences during his gap year helped solidify his decision to major in mechanical engineering, and led him to Tech.
“I think it’s really useful, because the years before graduation you spend in school and the years after you spend in school and you never really get to experience life,” Hofmeister said. “Just learning, learning, learning — that’s not the way life is supposed to be.”
Blacksburg High School guidance counselor Shelley Blumenthal said the economy may factor in gap year decisions, but he saw more students using the year to travel. He also noted the educational value of taking the off year.
“You might bring the student body a great deal more than the typical college freshman,” Blumenthal said.
Luke Kassoff is a graduate of BHS who took a year off after graduating in 2009. He now attends Guilford College in North Carolina and hopes to transfer to Tech.