Taking a Break From Formal Education

Although many high school seniors are making final decisions about which college to attend in the fall, some are still undecided. After twelve years of formal schooling, you may be feeling that what you really need is a timeout.

Gap year has long been a tradition in Britain. Perhaps it’s because when students begin college there, they need to know exactly what they want to study. Since American students can spend the first two years of college trying different subjects before committing to a major, they often start college without clear goals.

In the United States, most students go straight to college after high school because that’s what is expected. But some of these students are not ready. They may lack academic focus, self-discipline, or social skills, and could be at risk for depression, alcohol abuse, or academic failure. Taking some time out to develop academic and life skills or to explore possible careers can help a student feel more motivated and purposeful when he gets to college.

Gap year is becoming more common in the United States and is accepted by most colleges, which will defer a student’s admission for a year. Harvard did a study which found that students who had taken a gap year earned higher grades during their freshman year than students who started at Harvard right after high school.

Students choose gap year for many reasons. A student who has been immersed in AP courses for the last few years may want a break from the academic treadmill. Spending a year traveling, doing a service project in another country, or even working at a job, can protect a student from academic burnout and allow her to begin college with a renewed interest and a mature perspective.
Another student, whose high school record is less than stellar, might be in a stronger position to apply to college after attending one of the post-graduate programs offered at a number of boarding schools. Mitchell College in Connecticut has a post-high school program, Thames Academy, where students work on improving study skills and increasing confidence before transitioning to college.

For the student who questions the need for college, working can be a real motivator when it becomes clear that salary and job growth are limited without a college degree. A job may also help a student develop time management and social skills that will be useful in college.

Another option is to get involved in a volunteer project. AmeriCorps, the domestic version of the Peace Corps, offers opportunities to mentor at-risk students, build homes, provide disaster relief and assist in community development. The program provides a living allowance, and after completing service, students receive a grant of $4,725 for college.

Other options include volunteer opportunities abroad, like teaching English in Russia or maintaining trails in the rainforest in Brazil. There are so many ways to make a difference in the world while at the same time gaining self-esteem and a new perspective.

For the right student, a gap year can be the best path to a successful college experience.
Check out the myriad of options right here at www.EnrichmentAlley.com