First Hand Experiences: Mitchel Reeder

September 22, 2017

Some say a gap year can be a great way for students to recharge their battery, mature, find clarity in their life and gain valuable experience or more income to help them pay for college. They say volunteering abroad or in a field of interest provides students with important skills that will give them an edge in the job market and in life.

Student Council sponsor Mitchel Reeder said he spent his four gap years working.

“I didn’t go to college until I was 21,” Reeder said. “I was making a lot of money, enjoying life, having a good time. As I saw it at that time, it was a good fit for me.”

He said his parents even offered to pay his full tuition, yet still chose to take time off from school.

“I felt like at that time I had the mindset that college wasn’t for me, so I went out into the workforce and got a pretty well-paying job,” Reeder said. “At the age of 18 I was making almost the same amount of money I as I make today as a teacher.”

However, he said there did come a day when he realized he had to go to college.

“I realized that this wasn’t going to be my career, it was just kind of filling my time,” Reeder said. “I was kind of wasting my time in essence.”

His transition to going back to school after being out for such a long time was quite a challenge, however.

“My first semester back, I only took six or nine hours, just to dip my toe in the pool to see if it’s really going to be a good fit for me,” Reeder said. “I was really apprehensive about it. But as far as grades go, I felt like if I’m going to do this I need to jump in, so the next semester I went 18 hours. It was a struggle. I had to relearn how to study, relearn how to take notes, and prepare for tests.”

On the plus side, however, he said he was more mature at the time.

“I was able to budget my time better,” Reeder said. “I was able to take school more seriously than had I gone when I was 17 fresh out of high school. So in essence, I probably did better academically because I was a little bit older.”

He said there were both pros and cons to his time off.

“I learned a lot about myself and I learned a lot about the world,” Reeder said. “I definitely had a lot more responsibility thrust upon me in a different way, but again, by my own choice. On the con side of that, I missed out quite a bit of opportunities of going to a big university and living in the dorm and having those fun college experiences. One big drawback is that my earning power was diminished because I didn’t start earning earlier with a career, I started earning with a pseudo-job at 18.”

Reeder agrees with Marshall in saying that it is in the counselors’ best interest to not push the option of a gap year, although he sees that some kids could benefit.

“We want our kids to be successful, and on paper, in a lot of people’s eyes, success equals college degree, high earning job,” Reeder said. “But, as we all know, that’s not necessarily success to you. What’s successful to me is not successful to the next guy. I think that there are kids who might benefit from this, but the hard part is where do you draw the line.”

Despite not being a huge proponent of taking a gap year, Reeder said he would not have changed his irregular path to college.

“I feel like it made me who I am today, and I like who I am today, so there’s definitely a plus to that,” Reeder said.

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