Gap Year: Good Idea or Waste of Time?

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 this fear.

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 SATexams 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.