QUESTION

What is your opinion on gap year?

ANSWER

Taking a gap year is a very serious decision and not one that should be made lightly or on a whim. I also think it depends on what your child plans to do with that gap year.

Let’s take a look at the drawbacks before getting into the fun stuff. Your child will more than likely lose out on the financial aid package that the school has offered to them. This is because it’s based on information about you and your child from the previous financial year. When they return from their gap year, that information will have changed.

This means their financial aid package will look very different when they return from their gap year than it did before he/she left. Your child will probably have to forfeit any scholarships and grants he/she have won, which means he/she may have to take out loans to help cover the costs of school.

The gap year itself can also be very expensive depending on what your child decides to do during this time. He/she will also be putting himself a year behind his/her friends and some of the skills they’ve sharpened during high school could very easily dull during the year off. There is also the very real possibility than when he/she leaves the traditional school path, he/she may never come back.

As for the benefits, your child has the chance to breathe after going non-stop in an effort to prepare for college over the last 4 to 6 years. The year off will give him/her a chance to recharge and come back ready to take the collegiate world by storm. If he/she uses his/her gap year right, there are plenty of adventures he/she can go on and come back more mature than when he/she left. There’s also the potential to learn new skills and really think about his/her life instead of being obsessed with what his/her next step is.

I think if it’s done right — your child doesn’t spend it on the sofa eating Cheetos and playing video games nonstop — a gap year can be incredibly beneficial to your child’s development, make him/her a better student, and even a better human being. But I do think it’s a very serious decision and that he/she needs to make sure he/she can defer enrollment to the school he/she is planning on attending. Making sure he/she has a place to come back to is just as important as deciding where to go for the gap year.

If you’re interested in learning more about the gap year and how it’s been part of our cultural history for centuries, check out this article. It can be hard for us to consider a gap year anything other than slacking off and that article really helps put things into context.

Here is an article to help you and your senior decide if a gap year is the right decision for him/her and this article offers suggestions on how to make his/her gap year really worthwhile.

And if you and your child need help deciding what do, this site offers 50 different gap year ideas, this one offers an additional 7 ideas. Here’s another 101 ideas if you’re still feeling stuck and here is one specific program that takes your gap year to an international level.