An ever-increasing amount of teens are taking a break from education between high school and college, and this can bring about understandable concern for some parents. It’s hard not to imagine your child frittering away their time partying in a foreign country, and worrying about how taking a year out is going to affect their education in the long run is natural. However, with many colleges now actively encouraging it, and an overwhelming amount of benefits (some that last a life-time), perhaps a gap year is something both you and your teen should seriously consider.
A gap year gives teens a chance to breathe.
There is no mistaking the amount of stress teenagers are under during their final years at high school and the college application process. There is an enormous amount of pressure placed on their heads by work-loads, expectations, and decisions they need to make about their future, which can be daunting and incredibly stressful. Therefore, wouldn’t it make logical sense just to let them step back and clear their heads for a year?
Harvard seems to think so. They have been advocating gap year programs for nearly 40 years, and have found that the experience for students is “uniformly positive,” with a report stating gap years are “so valuable that they would advise all Harvard students to consider it.” Recommendation couldn’t come any higher than that.
Make the most of a gap year.
The ways in which your teen can spend their gap year are simply limitless. There are overseas programs, or those on your doorstep. They can take a year off surfing in Bali or help under-privileged children in Africa. Harvard is quick to point out that regardless of how the year is spent, the result is the same, with teens stating the experience was “life-altering” and often a “turning-point”. Despite many parents’ concern that a year away from education might make their teen never want to return, the opposite seems to be true in the majority of cases, with many coming back with a renewed vigor and excitement for learning.
What is evident though, is that the gap year should be time spent constructively. One way to ensure this happens is for parents to encourage their child to have a plan; otherwise, there may be a tendency to do very little at all. If your child is keen on participating in a gap year program, sit down with them and talk about how they are going to fill their year, and the thoughts they have for the future. Parents often find it reassuring if their child applies for college before their take a year out, and then defers enrollment.
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Find a gap year program that suits your teen.
As mentioned, there is a whole host of choice available, but the options are narrowed down depending on what interests your child. Another consideration includes the funds available: some programs are not cheap, with some costs involved reaching up to $30,000 for participation.
However, a gap year doesn’t need to be formal, and many programs involving teens working for their room and board. Some teens chose to take a work placement (either paid or unpaid) during their gap year, which again can be close-by or overseas. The choice of a gap year program ultimately comes down to your teen’s personality, their interests, and future career plans (for example, someone who intends to go into education, may elect to teach children in Asia during their time out). Often, the choices available can be bewildering and overwhelming, so it is a good idea to discuss the situation with a school counselor, or seek advice from a reliable online source, such as USA Gap Year Fairs.
As a parent, it is easy to let your personal beliefs and feelings influence, and even override, the choices your teen makes. However, it is important to remember that they are individuals with thoughts and desires that might not mirror your own. Some parents disregard their teens’ wishes about a gap year program, but it is important to listen to what they have to say, and try to come to some agreement; forcing your teen straight into college if they are not in the right frame of mind, or really have no present interest, can often do more harm than good.