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.
Your kid’s in 6th, 7th, or 8th grade? It’s time to set him or her free to feel jazzed and excited about college. Plus — as a parent– learn 8 things you can do right now to keep that kid’s future college costs low.
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.)
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.”