Although gap years sound like European, bohemian fairytales, there’s more to the backpacking, overgrown facial hair, and hostels. I regret not having a gap year between high school and college to collect my thoughts, learn common sense, and figure out what I’m doing in the short term.

And although 365 free days aren’t enough to pinpoint a path and wash your hands of uncertainty, a gap year is more than just flippant “soul searching” – it’s earning money without strings attached, shadowing different professions, and traveling without bullshit classes and requirements.

Many American parents have this perception that gap years are for lazy underachievers, but coming from a European background, I couldn’t disagree more. Here are a few (non-gypsy) things I could’ve done in my gap year if I would’ve taken one.

1. Develop My Writing Career Before the Pressures of University Started

Mackenzie Patel

Striving to be a professional writer while also being a full-time accounting student is a mess of frustration and forced priorities. If I had hours to spend on sentences and articles, I’d be J.K. Rowling by now (well, at least on my way).

However, juggling these writing deadlines with Cost Accounting exams leaves little time for raw creativity. I needed a free year to explore my writing ability, but now, I have to splice my passion with practicality.

2. Visit My Family in England and Scotland 

Mackenzie Patel

It’s convenient having family in Manchester, Edinburgh, and London – too bad I only “cross the pond” every one or two years. If I had a gap year, I’d spend weeks or months with my cousins, absorbing their culture and watching their Indian babies grow up.

3. Apply For Jobs Without the Caveat of GPAs and Prior Work Experience

Mackenzie Patel

“Must have a minimum 3.5 GPA and two years of work experience” — what a nuisance! Judging me based on subjective grades isn’t a great indicator of my work ethic. However, for most accounting internships, GPA is paramount and if the resume doesn’t fit a formula, you won’t get a job.

Every interview is David’s Bowie’s "Under Pressure," but I wish jobs were based purely on a black-and-white interview and performance evaluations.

4. Travel Throughout India

Mackenzie Patel

Load on the henna and cook me a mean curry because India is the homeland I haven’t yet visited. This would be my most “bohemian” gap year activity, but returning to my father’s village has been an almost-mystical desire of mine for years. I don’t speak Gujarati.

My solo travel luck is dismal (i.e. I got stuck overnight in Philadelphia airport alone for 16 hours). But I’d have no time pressures and all the eagerness in the world.

5. Learn To Cook Handmade Pasta And Curry

Mackenzie Patel

My most sophisticated recipes in college are fettuccini alfredo and fried pork chops. However, after watching Season One of "Chef’s Table," I realized how potent and expressive culinary power is. Why not roll my own pasta? Why not simmer the spiciest curry base for my lamb shoulder? After four hours of accounting and four hours of working, I have no time for cooking, which is a Massimo Bottura shame.

6. Decide on a Major After Serious Consideration 

Mackenzie Patel

I chose accounting because 1) it was the first major listed and 2) my brother-in-law (who is similar to me) was an accountant for Ernst&Young. My thoughts about it were scrambled and hurried since I knew electrical engineering (my original major) wasn’t for me.

A major life choice decided on a whim; how “college” of me! I needed an extra year to parse out my interests, my capabilities and strengths, and maybe I wouldn’t have chosen accounting. Asking an 18-year-old about the rest of their lives is a stupid idea.

7. Have a Fling With an Older Man

Mackenzie Patel

College boys are incomparable to well-seasoned men with a job, maturity, and three weeks of paid vacation per year. Being at University, I’m surrounded by young boys who are incompetent, blind to context clues, and assholes to girls – all because they’re immature and don’t know how to grow up. Out in the “real world,” I’d have more exposure to better men (in every way), and yes please.

Mackenzie Patel

Living another lifetime would be so easy with a gap year. And yet American students don’t take this opportunity because it’s taboo and college is the "Highlight of our Youthish Existence." I value experience and pursuing my own interests over classes that mean nothing in the long run — it’s time for a shift in perception.