High School Graduates - Consider a Gap Year Before College

Ask the Experts by Beth Walsh-Sahutske, MA LPC

Q: My daughter has some friends who graduated from her high school that took a year off before going to college and now she is interested in exploring this idea. After all of this college admissions pressure, am I crazy to consider allowing her to take a break from formal education?

A: The concept that your daughter is referencing is called Gap Year. It is almost always concentrated on a combination of education, service and personal growth. Such programs have been encouraged by highly selective colleges and Ivy League institutions like Princeton and Harvard for the last 40 years.

There is a growing body of evidence that it is actually preferable for many students to build this interim into their academic program for the benefits of personal experience, cultural exposure, life balance and focus. Whether a student is working on environmental conservation or developing a social media technology application, the Gap Year provides an opportunity to expand their perspective and gain direction that give the college years meaning and focus.

During a Gap Year students take a semester or a full academic year away from the traditional college classroom in order to have some life experience like: international travel, service programs, work/internship, academic immersion and more. Students may explore an entrepreneurial interest… or they might just explore the world. There are many reputable organizations with long histories.

To research options, I would recommend perusing https://usagapyearfairs.org/.

Whenever possible attend a Gap Year Fair. Similar to a college fair, one can hear speakers talk about the benefits and considerations of taking a Gap Year as well as visit with representatives of various programs.

Locally, Rochester Community Schools is hosting a Gap Year Fair on January 25 from 6:00 to 8:30pm.

Most colleges will defer admission for a year if the student chooses this path, but be sure to check with individual colleges for requirements of deferral.

Beth Walsh-Sahutske, MA, LPC is the chair of the counseling department at Grosse Pointe South High School where she is in her 9th year as a counselor and 18th as an educator. She has guest lectured at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University and is the mother of four. Ms. Walsh-Sahutske can be reached at 313.432-3522.

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