From Harvard to MIT, many of the most prestigious colleges are recommending
a gap year. While most North American parents cringe at the mention of
a gap year, it has been standard practice for most European and Australian
scholars for years. The thinking here is that a gap year gives high-school
students who are burnt out from ACTs, SAT® exams and college applications a
chance to recharge. It also gives those students who aren’t quite
mature enough or aren’t sure of their career path a little more
time to find their feet.
Gap Years can be a Good Thing
For most parents, the biggest concern is that a gap year will turn into
gap years and their students won’t fulfill their college dreams.
College admissions officers disagree. They claim that there are very few
students who are a no-show after a gap year.
They support gap years because they feel that students who are better prepared
are more likely to complete their degrees. Most colleges allow newly accepted
students to defer for a year while they complete public service or internships.
This is in an effort to reduce the relatively high dropout rates (30% for
first year students). According to the Collage Board, three out of five
students don’t manage to complete their four-year degrees in the
first five years of college. The thinking here is that students who have
taken a gap year will be more prepared and better equipped to deal with
Structure your Gap Year
Travel, volunteering and internships are all possibilities for gap years,
but encourage your students to take on these tasks by themselves and to
plan their gap years carefully. You can also ask them to make a budget
for the year; just because you’re paying for college doesn’t
mean you have to fork out for a gap year too. Most students take on part-time
jobs to fund their gap years.
If you and your student have decided on a gap year, don’t let this
be the reason for delaying the ACTs or SAT® exams or for delaying college admissions.
Students should stay on track and gain college admission which they can
defer for a year. They have a far greater chance of going to college if
they have already secured admission.
If your student didn’t get into their college of choice, a gap year
can offer them a second run at it. While gap year experience is no guarantee
of college acceptance, it may help to bolster admissions that were not
successful the previous year.
If your student is considering a gap year, be sure that this doesn’t
give them an excuse to drop the academic ball in their last year. Try
to ensure that they secure a college admission before heading off and
make sure that their year is planned and structured so they get the most
out of their year off.
Picture by Jason Priem