When I was in Grade 12 two years ago the future loomed before me like a giant question mark that I felt ill-equipped to answer.

I kept getting asked what program I wanted to take and where I was planning on applying.

It felt surreal. After all, I wasn’t even a legal adult yet. How was I supposed know what the heck I wanted to do with my life?

The deadline for college applications came and went. I began to panic.

I had already watched friends before me obediently follow the path marked out for them. They graduated high school, closed their eyes, threw a dart at the board, and applied for whatever program the arrow landed on.

I mean, you have to pick something, right?

It’s ridiculous. No one should feel pressured into making such a huge – and expensive – decision before they’re ready.

“Going to university right after high school was a huge mistake,” said Graham Larose, a fellow classmate.

Graham took humanities at Carleton University, but the stress and pressure was too much. He dropped out partway through his first year and worked at a grocery store instead. In September he came to Algonquin, more mature and with a better sense of work ethic.

His story represents so many other high school graduates who end up feeling unprepared and overwhelmed in programs they’re not even sure they want to take.

A quick poll of my program showed that well over three quarters of the students had felt pressure to enroll in post-secondary directly after Grade 12.

But each person grows and matures at different times. There aren’t many who know what they want in life when they leave high school.

“It amazes me when kids go into university at 17 and they can pull it off,” said another classmate, Conor McCarthy. Conor worked for a year after high school before taking general arts at Acadia University.

He dropped out after a year and worked for two more before coming to Algonquin. “Personally, I was not mature or ready enough for it,” Conor said of his experience at Acadia.

I got a lot of questions and quizzical looks when I told people I wasn’t applying to college right away.

But to me, the answer was a no-brainer. I wasn’t going until I knew what I wanted to take. I had worked ever since I was 15 to pay for school and I didn’t want to risk wasting that hard-earned money.

Besides giving me more time to look into career possibilities, the extra year allowed me to earn more money, continue acting and work on a new novel.

School right after school is not a good idea, at least not in my experience. Taking a gap year was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.