“I want to take a year before I go to college” are some of the most feared words by parents. What do we fear? We fear they won’t want to go back to school after being off for a year. We fear they will lie around the house, watch TV and play video games. We fear they aren’t thinking clearly and have no idea what they are saying. And for those competitive parents, it’s not what they planned. But you don’t necessarily need to fear the gap year.
Have a serious conversation.
If your student is considering a gap year, you should have a serious conversation—without judgment. Let them talk and listen. Try to find out why they want to do this. Is it about fear of college, are they afraid of failing or not being accepted, or are they simply unsure about what they want to do. Once you know that reason, it will be easier to parent regarding their decision.
Be straightforward and honest.
If you ascertain that their reasons are motivated by fear of failing, be encouraging. Point out their strengths and offer to help if they are struggling. Tutoring might help or consider hiring a professional college counselor to help them make some decisions. If they truly don’t feel college is for them, be supportive and discuss what the next year will be like.
Make a plan
Gap years are successful and beneficial if your student has a plan. During this year, they should work toward determining what they want to do once the year is up. This can be accomplished in many different ways. They could work and save money for college. They could investigate internships or apprenticeships in areas they are interested in. They could travel and work abroad. It’s all about making a plan, setting the ground rules, and making sure they understand what is expected of them.
Gap years are becoming more and more acceptable, especially with colleges. Once your student has been accepted, it’s not uncommon for them to defer admission for a year and use that time to get focused. And remember that not all students are ready for college. Push and they will suffer the consequences. Keep an open mind, discuss the possibilities, and breathe deeply. It could be the best year in your student’s life.