You know it, they probably know it. College is on the horizon…but something feels amiss. Even if your child has accepted admission to a college, there is still time to make the decision to take a gap year. It could be the best decision they ever make.
Students who take a gap year do not fit one profile – there are many different types of young people who can benefit from gap time. One common reason my students cite for wanting to take a gap year is that deep down, they don’t feel ready for college. Perhaps they:
- Are academically motivated to the point of burn out and are worried they don’t have the energy to perform well at university.
- Have no idea what they want to study.
- Have had a contentious relationship with classroom learning in high school and dread repeating it in college.
- Feel younger than their peers (either literally because they are young for their grade or simply know they lack maturity).
- Have struggled with anxiety or depression in high school and need to continue down the road of recovery before starting college.
If your child fits one or more of these categories, you should strongly consider pumping the brakes on higher education. We know from recent data that giving students room to mature, gain independence, experiment with careers and simply breathe has long lasting positive benefits. Studies in the US, the UK and Australia have shown that gap year students perform better academically once they arrive at school and graduate in less time than their peers.
Beyond that, the number one self-reported outcome of gap year students is gaining a better sense of self. Giving a young person the room to develop themselves is a great gift. The New York Times published a fantastic article that interviewed gap year students several decades after they took gap time. It’s fascinating to see how that formative period of time affected the rest of their lives. That piece of reporting, combined with countless personal accounts (like here, here and here), showcase the immense power of gap time.
Where to Go From Here?
“Okay, what now?” you might be thinking. Well, first of all it’s important to know that even if you are the parent of a child who is about to graduate high school without a solid plan for their gap year, there’s still time. Here are some tips for what to do next:
- Have a conversation. Sit down with your child and ask them why a Gap Year might be the right choice. You might be surprised by what they say. Parental support is key to a productive year, and being able to communicate effectively with your child will make planning much easier for you both.
- A successful Gap Year is student-driven, so getting them enthusiastic about the prospects is an important first step. Have them check out some youtube videos of former gappers, look at Instagram and review some program options to get them inspired.
- Get in touch with EnRoute Consulting and set up a free introductory call with Julia. This is an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other and ask questions. This conversation can be useful no matter where you are in the gap year education process – some families want to discuss the benefits and opportunities in broad strokes while others want to get into more detailed brainstorming.
- Working with a gap year counselor takes the stress out of the process during an expedited planning process. EnRoute’s Julia Rogers has ushered hundreds of students through the gap year journey over her ten years in business. She is recognized by the Gap Year Association as an expert gap year counselor.
- As Steve Jobs famously said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” No matter which path your child decides to take, continue being the supportive figure in their life that you’ve always been.