You have been accepted to college, now how about taking a Gap Year?! One day last November, one of my high school seniors walked into my office and practically fell down onto the couch across from me. I had to keep myself from going over and hugging her.
“Are you as exhausted as you look?” I asked, and sure enough, she nodded silently. This young person, like so many others, had just completed all her applications and had been accepted to at least two colleges Early Action. Yet, still she could look at me and ask, “Do you think all of this is worth it? I am overwhelmed with the thought of making decisions and continuing on in the successful way everyone expects. Will college be easier?”
These are the kinds of questions I hear all the time as students are going through the ever-rising high stakes process of applying and getting into college; and, as a result, over time I have urged every family I work with to consider the possibility of having their students consider taking a Gap Year.
So often we see students who have focused on doing well in high school, filling their days with activities of all sorts, piling it on in the summers, all with their “eyes on the prize”—getting in—and once this happens, when they take a moment to breathe, they begin to consider that going to college right away after high school may not be the best idea. There may not be a better time, that is, between high school graduation and freshman year, to take that moment. (Though it is NOT the only moment, and there are plenty of other times when taking “time off or on,” depending how one looks at it, makes sense too!)
Why Take a Gap Year / Who Takes a Gap Year:
It is well documented that taking a Gap Year has important benefits for many reasons not the least of which is that the research shows that they outperform their peers*:
- A student does not feel ready to take full advantage of the college experience.
- A student needs to earn money before attending college.
- A student wants to contribute to the greater good either in his/her own country or another.
- A student wants to investigate a career path before having to make that decision while in college.
- A student wants to experience another culture and perhaps learn through immersion another language.
- A student wants to pursue an idea he/she has that connects with an interest (entrepreneurship) before he/she begins college.
A Quotation from Gap Year: Congrats! You’re Accepted to College, Now Go Away
“After working with many students who have decided to take a Gap Year, we have found that these young people are generally much better prepared to both meet the challenges and take advantage of opportunities college has to offer. They arrive at college rejuvenated, excited, engaged, and truly appreciative of being there. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, our students have found that by taking time away from a traditional path, they have expanded their global awareness as well as opened their minds to alternative ways of doing things, and this then, has set them on a course bound to be both enriching and successful.”by Susan Donaldson James, May 14, 2012