If you have a student who is agonizing over what to study, where to study
or what to do with their lives, then you will know that it seems so unfair
for them to have to make decisions about the rest of their lives at a
time when they are least qualified to do so. One way to give them a little
more life experience and maturity is to recommend a gap year.
Most of the world’s most prestigious universities, including MIT
and Harvard, are recommending a gap year. A far more pervasive practice
in Europe, North American educational institutions are warming up to the
idea as it gives students who are unsure about their future a little more
time and space to think things through.
A gap year allows them to make better decisions about what to study and
reduces the dropout rate. At present, the first year dropout rate is a
whopping 30% and three out of five students don’t complete their
five-year degrees, according to the College Board.
Will a Gap Year Turn into a Gap Decade?
A valid concern here is that a gap year will turn into two, then three
and soon your student will find it difficult to return to studying. But
college admissions officers claim there is very little evidence to support
They suggest procuring a place at your child’s school of choice and
then deferring for a year. You see, while the stress of final exams, SAT
and ACT tests, and school application essays is overwhelming, once they
have secured a place that stress dissipates and they are able to face
their new school career with confidence.
Not Just a Long Holiday
A gap year is not just a year-long vacation. If you want to ensure that
your student gets the most out of their gap year, you must provide some
structure. First define the goals of the gap year; perhaps they want to
travel, work or volunteer and use this time to get some life experience,
do something good or test out a possible career to see if it suits them.
If they are unsure of what they want to do, a gap year should see them
completing a few internships at prospective career sites to see which
one they like best. Most students take on a job or two to pay for their
gap years or save for college.
Stay on Track
If you have decided on a gap year, this should in no way affect or delay
the collage application process. If a student is opting for a gap year
to escape the stress that accompanies the end of their high school career
and the college application process, they are very unlikely to attend
to these matters when they return. This means that ACT or SAT® exams should
be written and college applications completed before a gap year becomes
a viable option. Students have a greater chance of going to college if
they have already secured admission.
A gap year can provide the much-need rest a student needs before embarking
on a university education. Support your students if this is something
they are thinking about and give them the space to grow and mature.