Most high school graduates who intend to go to college do so in the fall after graduation. However, there is another option. Taking a gap year, historically more common in Europe, has become more popular in the U.S. The COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged a number of students to put off enrollment for a year in the hope that the pandemic will have faded.
Should your child consider a gap year? If you are looking into it, or if your teenager has come to you saying they are interested in doing one, then here are some things to consider.
Why Take a Gap Year?
There are a number of very good reasons why some students should take a gap year. Here are some things to consider:
- Some children are not mature enough to start college right away, or they don’t have the skills needed to live independently. Spending a year learning and developing those skills can help.
- If your child is seriously procrastinating about their major, taking a gap year to explore various options can help avoid ending up taking eight years to get their bachelor’s While freshman year is very much about nailing this down.
- If your child is considering certain majors, it’s a very good idea to use this time to volunteer or intern in the related profession so they can establish whether they really want to do it. This includes things such as archeology, research science, and outdoor professions.
- It will look good on their resume after college.
- It’s a great opportunity to learn a new language, especially if your child is interested in diplomacy, translation, etc.
- Students who take a gap year perform better academically, spend less time in college, are more likely to get leadership positions on campus, and may have an advantage getting a job on graduation.
- Many, but not all, colleges will give admission preference to students who take a gap year as long as they do something structured, useful, and relevant with it. They see these students as bringing more to the college experience. Harvard has recommended gap years for decades.
There are a lot of things a student can do during a gap year. Structured programs exist, although they can be expensive. Or you can plan out a custom program with your child. This might include travel, volunteer work, a seasonal job, a project they really want to do, etc.
Possible Risks of Taking a Gap Year
The biggest risk of taking a gap year is that some children may decide that once they are out in the world, they don’t want to go to college after all. While not all young people benefit from college, skipping it can result in missed opportunities. It can also be harder to go to college as a mature student if they change their mind later.
Some colleges will do deferred admission for gap years. Others won’t, which results in the student spending a good chunk of the year worrying and stressing about admissions. If your child is taking a year off, look for a college that supports it, and ideally one with a gap year program that allows deferred admission and may also provide advice on great activities to do.
Also, some experts recommend against taking a gap year solely because of the pandemic. Without a plan, a gap year can end up being a wasted year. That planning can be expensive and time consuming, although well worth it for many students.
Taking a gap year is an option growing in popularity. It can help your student mature, succeed academically, and get a better job. It can also be cheaper than letting them find themselves in college. The Tenney School supports your child through high school and helps them to understand all of their college options. Contact us to find out more about how we can help your child succeed.