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5 Reasons to Make Your Kids Wait a Year or Two Before College

Posted by on Oct. 10, 2013 at 10:31 AM
  • 30 Replies

5 Reasons to Make Your Kids Wait a Year or Two Before College

by Jeanne Sager 

collegeBeen to a high school graduation lately? Usually an administrator gets up to list off all the colleges the seniors will be headed to in a few months. But is that such a good thing? Should every kid finish high school and head straight off to college?

Maybe not. Time off between high school and college -- often referred to as a gap year, regardless of the actual length of time off the education track -- isn't just for rich kids who have the money to backpack through Europe on Daddy's dime. These days an increasing number of American kids are asking their parents for a little breather after their senior year, and Mom and Dad are saying "OK."

Smart parents.

Don't believe me? Believe it or not, your kid's gap year request does not mean they'll never get that college degree. At least one study of kids who deferred college found as many as 90 percent went back ... and graduated.

And the benefits of that deferment for kids and their parents are myriad:

1. Time to work -- College isn't cheap. The average in-state tuition at a "moderate" college was $22,261 in the 2012-2013 school year. That's the cheap end! But a year off can give a kid time to work and build up their funds so they can afford the hefty price of education.

2. Time to make up their mind -- Not every 17-year-old knows what they want to be when they grow up, and even those who think they do may soon be surprised to find it changes. A gap year is a good time to dive into an internship or apprenticeship, to find out whether an intended career is a good fit before spending big money on an education they won't use. It's also a good time to try out different careers, trying to find a good fit.

3. Time to rest -- School is hard. And most kids go for 13 years straight without a break. Would you rather send your kid off to college, only to have them drop out after two semesters because they're burnt out, or have them spend a year doing something else worthwhile before going to college and graduating?

4. Time to volunteer -- Work isn't the only option for a gap year. A young body, a strong back, energy and excitement -- that's what volunteer organizations dream of having at their disposal. If you can afford to support your child while they give back, not only are they giving something to the world, but they're learning a lot about their place in this global village.

5. Time to learn to value college -- Spending a year away from school has a way of making a kid appreciate how much EASIER school is than just about anything in life, especially if you're doing back-breaking work. Is it any surprise a study out of Sydney University found that students who deferred college for a year typically performed better than their peers when they made it to school?

Would your kids benefit from a gap year? Will you let them try it?

by on Oct. 10, 2013 at 10:31 AM
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by Gold Member on Oct. 10, 2013 at 10:48 AM
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for us personally we want to get them in while they are still in the school mindset, still used to studying.  Though I agree work expeiance and volunteering is GREAT for everyone and teachs life skill and compation that can not be taught in the class room... I still want them in and out.

We can not retire until they are all through.  So maybe it is selfish but i want them in, out, grown up and on their own so we can start to shut it down and live our lives RETIRED!!!!

by Silver Member on Oct. 10, 2013 at 11:49 AM
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I only agree with #4 & 5. Most of the jobs an 18 year old can get don't pay enough to make much of a dent in their tuition cost. They're still going to need a significant amount of money from parents or loans.

I've never heard of an 18 year old getting an internship unless it was through a family friend. Internships are in great demand by college students these days, and why would a company hire someone fresh out of high school when they can hire someone who almost has a college degree? I didn't know what I wanted to be when I began college but I figured it out from the classes I took. Working a minimum-wage job for a year would not have helped me with that.

They get summers to rest, and in college they spend less time sitting in the classroom, and a whole month off for winter break instead of 2 weeks. They have plenty of time to rest. Partying wouldn't be such a huge problem if college students had no time to rest.

by on Oct. 10, 2013 at 12:15 PM

I think a gap year is a good idea

by Bronze Member on Oct. 10, 2013 at 12:58 PM

My sister took a gap year back in 1976, after she graduated early from HS.  She spent the year working to save up money for college.  She never made it to college and ended up getting married and having babies and working as a bartender to make ends meet. 

A friend of mine took a year off, which ended up a few years, to volunteer and to live in NYC.  She gave up Harvard, Standford, and Yale to marry a musician and finally made her parents happy by getting her bachelor (in graphic design) from Swarthmore College.

I would suggest my kids take off a year or two if they weren't focused.  College needs to be taken seriously and if they are going to goof off, then they ought not to be attending. 


by Member on Oct. 10, 2013 at 1:35 PM

I think they should head straight into college before they decide they don't want to go back to school at all. Maybe they could take a season off but after that it's back to school.

by on Oct. 10, 2013 at 1:38 PM

Mmm I'm not sure I agree with this. Most people I know, myself included, kind of screwed up by taking that year off. None of the people I knew who took a year off ended up thriving financially, and for myself, I ended up divorced with two kids trying to go to school later as an adult with sole custody of my kids. Unless you're going to totally boot your kid out and not help them at all, they really won't have the essential tools or wisdom yet to understand school is the better option at 18 (particularly if they're already not mature enough to handle a basic associates). My experience has been that a timeline of college after high school, THEN working or traveling as a grad present, then marriage and kids after, has the best success rate. I'd rather my kids take a 'break' after at least a general associates. Then I'd be willing to allow them to move home and maybe find themselves and what they want a further degree in. But usually this happens during the associate time anyway. And I'm willing to allow them to not work while their in school and/or live at home so they'll have plenty of social and study time plus breaks. College is not even close to as time consuming as high school if the student can avoid work. And they have the entire summer in between anyway.

by on Oct. 10, 2013 at 1:40 PM

Be aware...

One is usually accepted by the college and THEN takes a Gap year delaying entrance for one year.  We met with several reps last year, specifically the one from MIT told us that one should be careful.  She said, often people in admissions don't think that well of GAP years where one has not already been accepted..that often they think if an app comes in a year after they graduated high school it was because they couldn't get in to a good college. So, this type of Gap year, one where you apply later, can be dicey.  If you want to take a Gap year apply to schools, get your acceptance first.

by Member on Oct. 10, 2013 at 2:26 PM

I think a gap year is a good idea depending upon the individual.  It is not a one size fits all decision.  I can see where it benefits some to go straight on to college, to keep up the momentum so to speak.   I, however, did a gap year.  I felt I wasn't ready for college emotionally or financially.    Spent it working and deciding really where I wanted to be with my education.  It made me very focused when I entered college.  I was a bit more mature than my fellow freshman and definitely did not go "wild" as some of my dormmates did.  I went on to graduate school straight out of undergraduate.  But, as a previous poster pointed out, I took my gap year only after I was accepted to college and deferred for a year.

by on Oct. 10, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Thank you for posting this, it's very thought-provoking.  It's interesting, I've got this 14 year old who is so serious about his life and his future, he's going to start taking apprenticeship classes next year as a sophomore, and he told us he really wants to skip college and go right to work.  My husband and I would love for him to go to college and have the experience and the time to really know what he wants to be.  Not sure how it will all work out, but I love that he communicates so well with us (he's such a great kid).

by Emily on Oct. 10, 2013 at 2:56 PM

 For us a gap year was not something our older two had any interest in doing.College has been successful for them.With our younger two they also have expressed no interest in a gap year and I doubt anything will change in the next two years.

If a teen wants a gap year then that would be between them and their family.It could well be appropriate and best for that family.

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