Ed Barton, LLM, CPA, CFA

College as a Gap Period

College is for more than a rigorous academic education. It does serve as a gap period of intellectual, social, and emotional growth between the independence of the world of work and the relatively cloistered experience of high school. While not all students will utilize this time to create that distance and transition from childhood to independence and recognizing that each journey will be somewhat different, the general concept of growth beyond pure intellectual growth holds.

When referring to the term socialization, Weidman (2006) focuses on the inter-individual interactions and ability to integrate with their environment and society. Leaning on a general definition aligned to Weidman, the college experience is one of transition into the society of adulthood. There are other methods of socialization, including military service, vocational training, and immersion. However, one of the key components of the college experience is the development of the student in non-academic skills, including networking, social interactions, social skills development, and societal norms. Those norms include the norms for their chosen major or profession, as well as from a professional interaction with faculty, staff, administration, and other students.

Yang (2016) points out the importance of socialization and networking within the college experience, noting that families were willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to send children away from home for a combination of network building, maturity and development, and credentialing. The education elements – knowledge attainment – are lower on priorities than the socialization and maturation process. Saldana (2013) focuses on the role of the school as a socializing force and notes that schools have borne an increasing role as the United States secularizes, and the power and influence of school – as well as the challenge of conformity within that setting – have significant social impacts and socialization outcomes on students.

One of the challenges in the socialization role that college plays is the rise of non-traditional learning environments. Distance learning and the non-residential college experience inhibit the ability of the socialization function to take place. The traditional path from high school through to college in a residential setting, followed by work or graduate school, is being displaced by non-traditional, non-residential education driven by economic and technological influences. The cost of residential education for college continues to rise faster than the rate of inflation (Maldonado, 2018), leading students to forego the residential experience and impacting the socialization effect as preparation for independence.

College served as a gap period for socialization for the last 70 years or so, following the end of the Second World War and through to the recession of 2008. The internet and the cost of college are impacting that role and will continue to do so. While I agree that college has been, and was for me, a gap period of socialization, that role is rapidly changing.



Henderson, J. M. (2014, August 29). The Surprising Secret To College Success? Study Less And Socialize More. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jmaureenhenderson/2014/08/29/why-college-students-should-study-less-and-socialize-more/#103cfd8062ee.

Maldonado C. (2018). Price Of College Increasing Almost 8 Times Faster Than Wages. In: Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/camilomaldonado/2018/07/24/price-of-college-increasing-almost-8-times-faster-than-wages/#6d9679f466c1. Accessed 24 May 2019.

Saladana, J. (2013). Power and Conformity in Today’s Schools. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 3(1), 228-232. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from http://www.ijhssnet.com/journals/Vol_3_No_1_January_2013/27.pdf

Sternheimer, K. (2011, September 5). Becoming a College Student: A Study in Socialization. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.everydaysociologyblog.com/2011/09/becoming-a-college-student-a-study-in-socialization.html.

Weidman, J. C. (2006). Socialization of Students in Higher Education: Organizational Perspectives. The SAGE Handbook for Research in Education, 252-262. doi:10.4135/9781412976039.n14.

Yang, A. (2016, April 05). Students Aren’t Going To College To Learn, and They’re Going To Network. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewyang/2016/04/05/the-future-of-college/#7d2ab85631f1.





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