Is your high school senior burned-out? Do they need a break? Are you hearing or sensing that it’s time for your child to get off the educational treadmill and maybe not follow the traditional path to college?
The concept of a gap year, which is generally considered a year off between high school and college is becoming increasingly popular with both students and parents.
The gap year is usually a self-designed program that allows students to travel, work, explore their interests, perform community service, intern, etc. The overwhelming consensus from college admissions professionals, parents and gap year participants is that the gap year experience is almost always life-changing.
It’s also important to note that when students start college they are more mature, refreshed and energized. Middlebury College has noticed that the average GPA for gap year students is consistently higher than that of traditional students.
One gap year student reported that “taking a gap year after high school has proved to be extremely beneficial to my college experience. I am not only more engaged with my studies, but I have a much stronger sense of self and purpose, as my perspectives have been widely broadened from a year abroad.”
Here are some things to think about if your family is intrigued with the idea:
1. Apply to college. Don’t postpone applying. Students are far better off if they apply to college with their peers to keep their options open. If everyone in the family agrees that a gap year is what makes sense, at the end of the application and notification process, the student will need to decide where they want to attend college and submit a letter requesting that their admission be deferred for a year.
Colleges like to see what students have planned for their time off, so provide details of intended travels, programs, etc.
2. Create a plan. Discuss financial expectations. There is a big variety of options; from bare-bones rustic experiences to 5-star deluxe. Don’t assume costs are prohibitive. Invest your time in the upfront research, I guarantee you’ll be amazed. Here are a few gap year resources: www.gapyear.com, www.takingoff.net and www.interimprograms.com.
3. Think about the details. Make sure you understand the complete costs involved for travel, housing, food, excursions, medical insurance, cell phone, cancellation fees etc. Ask questions about the staff to student ratio, structure of the program, independent time and what happens if your child is unhappy, sick or injured.
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com.
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