L.G. of Oyster Bay, NY writes:

What are your thoughts on taking a year off between high school and college?

The College Whisperer responds:

While taking time off between high school and college -- often referred to as the "gap year" -- is commonplace throughout Europe and Oceania [travel anywhere, and you will find students from countries like England, France, Australia and New Zealand, traveling, and working, seeing the world, gaining perspective, and, perhaps earning some much-needed cash to continue their education], such initiative has yet to catch on here among American students.

Maybe it's the herd mentality ("do as my high school peers do"), that fear of being left behind, or the competitive nature of both the college admissions process and the job market, that keeps our kids in school for seventeen or more consecutive years. Could be that, in the states, we just don't give that gap year -- a time of relaxation, reflection, maturation, and that beginning of a new chapter in life sabbatical -- much thought. Maybe we should.

A well-written article appeared recently in the Boston Globe on this very issue, and is worthy of mention -- and a read -- here. Take a look at Burned-out students choose a timeout.

As the article points out, "Backpacking through Europe remains popular, but admission deans report that more students are choosing internships in their academic fields of interest in hopes of getting a leg up in a down economy, or engaging in public service at home and abroad. Whole cottage industries have sprung up to help match students, for a fee, to the right gap year experience as the practice becomes more prevalent."

Simply do a Google search for "gap year programs" and you will find a plethora of opportunities to travel, gain insight, and, yes, earn a few bucks along the way.

While many parents fear that Junior will not be down for college life after he's seen Paris, the angst is often allayed by applying to college during the senior year of high school, and, once admitted, gaining what is known as deferred admission, which essentially holds the spot for the student, who will begin college the next year with a guarantee of enrollment.

Ahhh. A year-long repose with nary a care in the world. Don't you wish we all could do that?

No, a gap year is not for everyone. Then again, maybe it should be. A required year of service, perhaps -- think AmeriCorps -- between high school and college.

It would do mind, body and soul good, better preparing all three, perhaps, for the rigors of college, graduate school, and a lifetime of working, mostly without those care-free gaps, save a week here and a three-day holiday there.

Besides, if you're not going to take advantage of a gap year while you're young, energetic, and not tied-down (in a time when work is both scarce and sacred, and neither retirement nor good health in the golden years is assured), just when will you be able to do this? [And the tales of, "If only I had..." would fill a blog of their very own!]

The College Whisperer says, make your applications to college, be accepted, request a deferment, and pack those bags!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
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