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Should your Student Take a Gap Year?

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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, SATexams 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 their studies.

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 SATexams 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

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