Gap Year: Should those words strike fear in your heart?
Several Ivy League colleges, like Harvard and Princeton, encourage a gap year and in return they gain students who are more focused and are more likely to complete their college education within 5 years.
College application deadlines are looming. And in some
households, there will be the inevitable conversation about taking a gap year
instead of going straight to college.
Should this conversation strike fear in your heart or be a source of
Taking a gap year between high school and college is quite common in countries like New Zealand and Australia. Teens are expected to travel abroad and
support themselves for a year while they experience new cultures, find what
interests them, and learn to live responsibly on a budget.
recent years, this
concept has been embraced by more American and European universities. In fact, several Ivy League colleges, like
Harvard and Princeton, encourage a gap year and in return they gain students
who are more focused and are more likely to complete their college education
within 5 years.
why is your teen advocating for a gap year? Procrastination? Fear? Lack of
focus? Desire for adventure? This may be the critical question. If it is procrastination regarding finishing those applications, then think again.
As MSNBC noted in their recent review of gap years: “The best way to start a gap year is with an admissions
offer in hand.” Not filling the
applications out closes a door. Filling
them out keeps the door open and allows for better decisions. And if your teen is accepted to that dream
school, call to ask for a deferment, which is often not a problem.
If he or she isn’t accepted to the dream
school, give some thought to what can be done during the gap year to increase
your teen’s chances for the next application. If the desire for a gap year is lack of focus
or a desire for adventure, it might make financial sense. Time Magazine explored the financial pros and
cons of a gap year.
If you decide a gap year is right for your teen, then comes the money
and planning discussion. A gap year isn’t designed for teens to run unfettered, but it is a chance to learn and grow. Sit down with your teen and
discuss finances, what they want from a gap year, what you expect from them,
and what the options are. Gap year activities range from pure work (imagine
traveling to Germany and being a waitress or an English teaching assistant) to
service/volunteering (there are an amazing number of companies built around gap
year volunteering: GapGuru, RealGap, and Projects-Abroad are good starting
points) , or combining work with study (take one or two classes from a small
specialty college). But no matter what
the choice, plan a budget, make sure you and your teen know what expectations
you have of each other, and talk about what comes next.
And after you have the conversation with your teen, breathe deep and
imagine the possibilities if you took a gap year, too. Gap years for adults and executives are
growing in popularity, after all.