Fashionably Late

 Photo by Selena Liu

To senior Remi Meeker, the long, burnt-gold necklace accenting her outfit of a patterned dress, tights and heels carries memories of being on Homecoming court and other special occasions. On this particular day, a yearbook photo was the occasion for wearing the meaningful necklace, but each day, getting dressed in the morning means more to Meeker than simply throwing on clothes. Meeker said styling herself is a creative challenge to be different and to take pieces that seem like polar opposites and combine them to create an outfit.

“(Fashion) is like an art form. It’s just like any other artist, how they’ll paint or sculpt,” Meeker said. “I’m still making something, just like they are.”

Meeker said her time in her freshman year fashion class helped her to truly develop an interest in fashion. Even before high school, however, her goals for the future were already taking shape.

“I was planning how I was going to get into college since the sixth grade, maybe even earlier. I was determined to be a straight-A student,” Meeker said. “Sometimes things in life happen that you don’t expect, and plans don’t always go the way you think they’re meant to.”

Meeker said she hopes to enter the fashion industry, but instead of attending a university next year like the majority of her classmates, she plans to take a gap year to seek employment and take a break from her studies.

“I used to think that I wanted to be a designer. I now think I’d want to be more of a stylist. It’s changed so much that I’d rather take the time to contemplate the options out there, because there are so many job opportunities,” Meeker said.

Across the nation, a growing number of students share Meeker’s wish to take a year off before college. According to the American Gap Association’s 2015 National Alumni Survey, interest and participation in gaps years in the United States has continued to grow, with a 294 percent increase in attendance to USA Gap Year Fairs since 2010.

Harry Pettibone, college and career resource counselor, said he has observed a growing awareness and interest in gap years at CHS over his six years here, although he has not witnessed the same increase in participation as has occurred nationally.

“(Taking a gap year) is okay if you have a purpose or a plan or if you’re totally, I guess, in the dark as to where you want to go off to college. If you use the gap year wisely, maybe you will find your passion or your niche,” Pettibone said.

Meeker said she feels taking a gap year should be more of a norm among students.

“The most challenging part was making that initial decision even though everyone else was kind of questioning it. Now that I’m firm on my decision, I feel like more people are considering (a gap year), and I think that’s a great thing,” Meeker said.

CHS alumna Cayla Shank ‘16 made a decision similar to Meeker’s; instead of immediately enrolling in art school as she originally planned, Shank is currently taking a gap year. During her time at CHS, she was president of the Sew Unique club, and, like Meeker, took four years of fashion classes. She is now a preschool teacher at the Goddard school and said she plans to attend a traditional university and major in fashion design next year.

“If I were to go (to art school) and I didn’t like it, then the credits don’t transfer because the classes are so specialized, so it would be kind of hard to get out of going if I didn’t like it,” Shank said. “I wanted to take a year off to make sure that was what I wanted to do (or) if I wanted to go to a regular university like IU.”

According to Shank, her time away from school has helped her make this decision.

“(Last year) I had no idea what school I wanted to go to. I didn’t know if I was certain about my major and whatnot, and just because I’ve gone and been able to visit people and seen them at college and stuff, it’s a lot more reassuring that I’m going to be okay and whatnot. I’m a lot more certain now,” Shank said.

According to their respective websites, IU allows incoming students to defer their acceptance to take a year off, and prestigious schools such as Princeton and Harvard Universities also encourage gap years. Princeton’s newly admitted undergraduates have the opportunity to live and volunteer abroad for nine months through its Bridge Year Program, and Harvard encourages accepted students to take a gap year to travel, work or pursue other meaningful activities.

Pettibone said, “Through travel or an internship or through community service or through a job, maybe if you do one of those four things, you will find your purpose or your passion for going to college.”

However students choose to fill their itineraries, both Shank and Pettibone said people who take a gap year need to spend their time productively.

“It’s going to be nice to get some experience under my belt before I go off to college, and just (to have) the time to kind of reflect and do what I would like to do, as opposed to being very strictly mandated here at school,” Meeker said.

Students who take a gap year enjoy many benefits, ranging from personal growth to gaining skills needed for success. According to the American Gap Association’s survey, 98 percent of respondents, all of which where gap year alumni, agreed with the statements that taking a gap year helped them develop as a person and provided time for personal reflection.

Shank said she is glad she made her choice to take a year off.

“I got the opportunity to realize what it’s like after college beforehand, which is kind of bittersweet because it’s nice being able to go to a job and be independent and have that experience, but at the same time, it’s like … I don’t really want to be working all the time like I am right now,” Shank said.

For Meeker, most of her original feelings of nervousness about taking a gap year have already been replaced by excitement.

“Anything could happen next year,” Meeker said. “I don’t know what’s going to come my way. I could travel; I could just stick with my job and get really high up; I could find a really good school that wants to give me scholarships. Anything could happen right now.”

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Emily Dexter