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College Admissions: 3 Reasons To Take a Gap Year

Monday, February 18, 2013

 

A gap year can be a great opportunity for not only maturing, but doing serious good in the community. Americorps is one terrific option for graduating seniors. Photo: Americorps.

For more than a decade, taking a “Gap Year” between high school and college has been a popular option for European students. The time allows young adults to travel, explore their interests, mature and rejuvenate before attending college. Now, the idea is spreading in the US. The Ivy League and most competitive colleges encourage students to take a gap year. They believe that it increases a student’s focus and

maturity while broadening their perspectives. Students can either apply to college and then ask for a deferral if accepted, or wait and apply during their gap year. Princeton has even started a freshman internship abroad option as a structured gap program for accepted students.

There are many reasons to take a gap year; here are three central arguments:

1. De-Stress, Re-Energize

Kids today are asked to keep ridiculous schedules. A typical high school student on track to attend a competitive college is most likely attending school from 8am to 3pm, participating in sports or extra-curricular activities until 6pm, and then doing homework until midnight. Their weekends are filled with community service, sports playoffs, and academic decathlon competitions. By the time they graduate, they are EXHAUSTED. Let’s face it, “tired” is not the best way to go off to college. A year off provides relaxation, life experiences and generates a renewed enthusiasm for academia. Studies have shown that the parental fear that students won’t go on to college after a year off, is unfounded.

2. Maturity is Golden

Not everyone is ready for college at 18. Many students today have a great deal of parental oversight with dozens of texts and calls a day. They simply aren’t ready to be on their own yet, balancing academics and social activities while living independently. A year off to become self-reliant can be invaluable. Students who travel to Appalachia, Africa, Asia and other parts of the world benefit from understanding the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead.

3. Find a Focus--Build Your Resume

Many gap year itineraries include travel, community service or an internship. During this time, young adults are exposed to a variety of professions and potential passions. Many discover a love of teaching while helping in an inner city school; some unearth an interest in public health or medicine while assisting in a hospital, and still others a passion for environmental science while working on a farm or in a rain forest. For students who may have had a rough start to high school, this also gives them the benefit of an extra year of senior grades, if they wait to apply to colleges.

How to Plan a Gap Year

There are lots of resources for researching a gap year and program costs vary widely. Students may earn money during that year to put toward college with AmeriCorps, City Year or paid internships. Other highly structured programs with extensive travel can cost up to $50,000. Remember that whatever your budget, planning and structure is critical to having a happy and productive gap year. You need to start educating yourself on the options now if you are a senior in high school. Planet Gap Year is a good place to begin exploring, but a private or school based counselor can be invaluable in recommending reputable and safe options based on past students.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, individual counseling for college-bound students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com

 

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