Your child doesn’t seem quite ready for college yet. Would it be a good idea for him or her to take a gap year? Malia Obama did it, after all. Here are 5 good and 2 bad reasons for students to take a gap year between high school and college.
5 Good Reasons to Take a Gap Year
1. <Good Reason> Your son’s fallen into a pattern of being unwilling to work hard in high school.
Has he gotten mediocre grades? Is he dragging his feet on filling out college applications and applying for scholarships? Taking a gap year where he lives in a tiny studio apartment and works for peanuts can actually teach valuable life lessons that no college program can.
2. <Good Reason>It could do your son great good to learn what life without education or job training is actually like.
Here’s a good line for parents to practice saying: “Well, you’re welcome to live here at home with us, as long as you’re enrolled in (and succeeding in) a full time academic or job training program. If you’re going to stay out of college and work during this gap year, let’s go find you a small apartment you can rent!”
The struggle to pay for rent, food, transportation, and a cell phone may help your son feel eager to apply to (and work hard in) college or technical school at the next possible opportunity.
For more help on this subject, see this article I wrote on the 7 things every parent should carefully think through anytime kids over 18 ask to–or expect to–live with you.
3. <Good Reason> Colleges will still accept a student who takes a gap year. No problem.
I recently watched Darci Lynne Farmer, the 12-year-old singing ventriloquist from Oklahoma City, wow the audience and the judges on America’s Got Talent. Before the 7-minute video was over I laughed, and I cried. Real tears. I am not kidding.
And then I thought…
What if Darci Lynne had never practiced ventriloquism on her own at home? What if she’d just waited until age 18, signed up for ventriloquism classes, and then expected those classes to give her everything she needed to perform like a superstar?
They hear their parents’ tense, late night discussions downstairs in front of the TV, and they see the angry vitriol that’s been roiling in their social media feeds.
They’re worried about the world they’re inheriting.
When they tell me this in person, I hug them and tell them that they have more power to change the world than they ever think. “Start right where you are,” I tell them.
“Do what you can to fill the world with so much good that bad goes out of style.”
I tell these students, “It begins with speaking with kindness in your own home, online, and in your own school. It builds into empathy and caring for those who are different from you. And it bears fruit and multiplies when you find a cause you care about, and work consistently in service to that cause to make the world a better place.”
To see how thousands of students in the U.S. are doing exactly this, view this exciting, inspiring 2-minute video about WE DAY:
Whether you’re a student or a parent, this video is guaranteed to make you feel hope.
(To learn more about WE programs for schools, click here.)
A girl recently contacted me on Twitter, asking me to explain to her how she could wrestle control of her 529 college savings plan away from her parents.
“They are unreliable and untrustworthy,” she told me.
“What!?” I thought. “Are they drug addicts or human traffickers? Are they embezzlers!? What’s going on?”
I invited the girl to direct message me on Twitter so I could get a fuller picture. I learned that her parents were against a rather harebrained idea she had to study what she vaguely described as “media” overseas — so they were refusing to fund it. (They are perfectly within their rights to do this.)
When I asked the girl why it was so important that she carry out this plan to study “media” overseas, she came out with this whopping piece of logic:
“It’s been my dream since forever to do so.”
My reply to her looked like this:
“I understand about dreams, but when it comes to college and career we need to get extremely practical. What you need is the shortest, fastest, least expensive route to get to a career that will support you financially. When you get to your career goal and you’re working and earning your own money, then you can get started on fulfilling your dreams. Then you can fall in love and travel the world and do whatever you want. College is not the time to fulfill your dreams. College is the time to get busy get practical get it done and get out. Can you tell me what your career goal is? What do you think you’ll be doing when you are finished with studying “media” overseas?”
Parents, tell your kids the truth: college is not actually about following passion and dreams.
College is about qualifying oneself to do a job that will earn money in the real world.
To read my emphatic words to students age 12 -24 (and to see an inspiring short Mike Rowe video on this subject) read on.
The dad waited in a long line to get to shake my hand. He was beaming.
“We squeezed into a packed high school auditorium to hear you speak about scholarships last year,” he told me. “You inspired my son to go home and apply for 20 scholarships he thought he’d never get. He won eight of them, and now has over $20,000 extra to help pay his college bills. I just wanted to say thanks.”
I beamed back at him. Nothing excites and energizes me like seeing students achieve things they thought they never could. And when they rake in the scholarship money? That’s the best feeling ever.
Winning college scholarships is only one very small piece of the puzzle when it comes to getting kids through college debt free. In all honesty, other strategies that I provide to parents can net even greater return for families.
If you want to maximize scholarships, though — here are just a fraction of the scholarship strategies I recommend for students and parents.
1. Don’t assume your kid won’t qualify for scholarships because of grades or test scores.
“Jeannie, are you serious? We need to talk to 6th graders about career?”
Yes. And if not in 6th grade, then as soon as possible after that. Why? Because when your child is in 6th, 7th, or 8th grade, his or her brain is growing faster than at any time since infancy.
Whatever you tell your daughter now — whatever she experiences — will imprint on her powerfully, very likely staying with her into high school, college, and adulthood. This is why I am so emphatic about teaching middle schoolers college study strategies like how to use a calendar and how to use the time-saving “quiz and recall method” for college level studying. (You can see the emphatic post I wrote on this subject here.)
What should we be telling middle schoolers about career?
1. “Wow; you’ve got some outstanding natural abilities that are going to help you have a great career when you’re an adult!”
3. “In the old days college kids used to take random college classes to see what careers they might interested in. Ha ha ha — people don’t do that anymore. That career strategy never really worked anyway — and these days college is way too expensive to do that.”
A massive number of parents have read my free PDF “12 Ways to Save $10,000 on College.” This was heroic on their part, because it was little more than a Word document with a nice letterhead at the top.
Now this free PDF has been made into a full color e-book — including completely new and updated information on what grandparents can do to help kids get through college debt free. (All the guidelines for grandparents changed when President Obama made his big announcement on September 13, 2015.) This e-book is going to be available for free for a limited time — but only on the front page of this website. So click here, download now, and enjoy hope and help for free.
The answer?As long as your child meets the LinkedIn.com minimum age limit of 14, it’s absolutely true.
Your child needs one place to keep track of all of her accomplishments, achievements, work experiences, school and scouting awards, scholarship awards, job shadowing experiences, and volunteer and service hours and experiences, right? LinkedIn is a spectacular place to do that.
Researchers tell us that the brains of middle schoolers are growing at an explosive rate, faster than at any time since infancy.New connections are being formed, less-used pathways in the brain are being pruned away, and new experiences are imprinting deeply, in technicolor, in ways that will not be forgotten even in adulthood and old age.For this reason, 8th grade is a prime time to have a conversation with your child that covers what you as parents are and are not willing to do to help with their life after age 18.