Taking Time Off – Considering the Path Less Traveled

This year, considering a Gap Year is a hot topic of conversation. Many parents are reluctant to pay private school prices of $70-80,000 per year or even public university fees of $25 – $50,000 annually and have their child upstairs in their bedroom on a screen all day long. Covid-19 has impacted so much, but it has really refocused the conversation on the value of college for many families.

The pathway to college from high school can be too straight and narrow for some. There are students who secretly wonder if they are ready to handle the independence or the pressure. Some are burnt-out on studying and just want to get off the treadmill. Parents may find themselves second-guessing whether their hard-earned money will be well-spent because they don’t see their children taking their academics sufficiently seriously.

The Gap Year experience is increasing in popularity in the United States, however, it is a very accepted rite of passage in Europe. A Gap Year will help students gain confidence and real world experience and also provide a major departure from their structured lives. Whether is it a totally structured program such as Leapnow’s 8 or 9 month-long programs in India or South America that offer college credit, or a self-designed program with community service, internships, travel or an opportunity to follow a passion,

If you feel that your student is a candidate for stepping off the beaten track to college, here are some things to consider.

  • Maintain open communication between parents and children. Encourage your students to share their hopes, dreams and frustrations. What parts of their high school experience has been the most and the least fulfilling? Why are they interested in a gap year?

Families often ask what colleges think about students taking time off. Parke Muth, former Senior Assistant Dean and Director of International Admission Office of Undergraduate Admission, University of Virginia shared, “The students that I see doing gap years are almost always doing something incredibly interesting. Most do some sort of travel, many do service, and not an insignificant number are doing internships.  All of these opportunities make the student more worldly and usually a bit ‘hungrier” and grateful for the education that awaits them here.”

Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson, authors of The Gap Year Advantage proclaim “Five years from now many students and their parents may wish they had focused as much on having success in college as they had on gaining access to college.”

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte: lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com ;  www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com