Some high school seniors have started to receive college acceptances, others are finishing up college and scholarship applications, and some are lining up college visits for spring break. But what about the teen who’s having second thoughts about college or is so sick of school that he or she doesn’t want to think about higher education?
For those teens, going immediately to college isn’t the right choice. Other students may simply want to take a break from academics while making a difference. If your child fits in any of these categories, he or she should think about taking a gap year, or any amount of gap time.
Gap time can fall between high school and college, or during college years; it’s a period when a student takes time off from academics and pursues something else, such as a service-learning opportunity.
There are plenty of organized gap year programs, although many are expensive.
One exception is Americorps — a domestic peace corps that sends young adults across the U.S. on community service-type projects. Americorps participants receive a stipend and can earn money toward college. Several colleges will defer enrollment to accepted students for one year if a student is enrolled in a sanctioned gap year program. If your student has favorite colleges in mind, it’s worth investigating whether such an offer is available.
But many parents gasp at the idea of their teenager taking time off — afraid he or she will never go to college. Sometimes that happens, but generally the gap gives a young adult the chance to take a breather and usually results in a more focused, serious student, whenever he or she returns to the classroom. Not only should parents ask their teen what they want to do after high school, but parents also should evaluate their teen’s college readiness.
Students who still need time to mature, haven’t figured out how to prioritize and self-advocate, avoid difficult decisions, can’t live on a budget, have not been given the opportunity to learn from mistakes, or who simply are sick of school are those who should take time off before committing to college.
Other gap options for these students include the military or creating service-learning adventures. Maybe a student needs to see how the world works away from mom and dad. Some simply want to work for a while, during which time many realize they really do need and want to go to college.
Regardless of parents’ opinions of a gap year, remember that it’s your teen’s life. The parent’a role is this: Take a deep breath, ask your teen what he or she wants after high school, listen, ask how they plan to get there, and be willing to help him or her find the path to success.