You want to do what? Take a Gap Year?

Gap Year Options from Cross-Cultural SolutionsThis was the beginning of a recent conversation that I had with my soon to graduate 18-year-old son. As someone who grew up with the option of going to college or going to college, “Gap Year” was a foreign concept. Which is really not far from the truth; gap years have been common for some time in Britain and Australia. However, here in the US, their popularity has just increased over the last few years.

Well, I knew my son was serious and I needed to do some investigating so that I could have an informed discussion with him. What I found was very positive and reassuring.

The benefits are many, starting with not having to pay for a year of college when your child really isn’t ready. Some kids are just burnt out; standardized tests, heavy class loads, pressure for good grades, and you better make sure you have plenty of extra-curricular activities for that college application. They need a break.

And, the advantages of a Gap Year go way beyond saving a year of college tuition. Generally, these include: increased maturity, a greater sense of responsibility, improved self-awareness, fostered global understanding, developed foreign language skills, and more self-confidence.

If I were to take an honest look at my first year at college, I would see a very awkward young woman who probably stayed out too late, missed too many 8am classes, had little world knowledge, and lacked appreciation for the opportunities given.

However, I was still a bit worried, mostly that my child was never going to get back on the academic track after a year off. More good news, research shows that students who take a gap year arrive at college more prepared and perform better academically. One study conducted at Middlebury and the University of North Carolina found that gap-year students upheld grade point averages between .1 and .4 points higher than their gap-free peers.

What is even more promising for skeptical parents like me is that many colleges, including Harvard and Yale, now urge potential freshman to consider a gap year by offering deferred enrollment. Some schools like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offer Global Gap Year Fellowships.

While I’m still in the discussion stages with my son, I’m feeling pretty comfortable with the idea of a Gap Year. And the biggest benefit I have seen so far is the quality time my son and I have spent in real conversation; he has had to prepare for my questions and concerns and is meeting this challenge with a new found maturity.

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