Should students consider taking a year off in between high school and college?
Sure! Unless you are headed for Yale. I met with a counselor at Yale in the spring and asked about their gap year policy. In return, I was met with horror at the suggestion. In her words, “We only want the top students.” Since when did a student who has an interest in the world and life and something other than the classroom become something less than a “top student?”
There are wonderful opportunities out there for students who want a break to give them perspective on their challenges (personal and otherwise), explore their interests, and learn more about themselves before jumping into their studies in a more directed and meaningful way. Community service in the U.S. or abroad; wilderness exploration; academic-subject focused; travel; work; and many more opportunities for personal, spiritual, intellectual, and social growth are available to students who seek a way of moving forward that is meaningful to them and not to an institution.
I worked with a student once who came to my office mid-senior year of high school. He told me that he would like a deferral so he could backpack around Europe for a year. This student had straight As in a strong college program and outstanding SATs. He was admissible just about everywhere.
Now, after some conversation, I discovered that his girlfriend had just dumped him. Basically his desire was to escape the possibility of running into her.
I told him to go for it. “It will be the best learning experience you’ve ever had, and you will no doubt encounter many more girls who will get your mind off of her. Just don’t do anything stupid or dangerous. And keep in touch.”
So off to Europe he went. No overly scheduled first-year experience programs desperate for his attention and making him nuts. No confusing campus social interaction. No academic pressure cooker. And what an experience he had. Great kid. Great success.