11 July 2005

Mind the Gap

What I really wanted to do after finishing high school was have a "gap year." I didn't know what to call it. What I did know was that I wasn't ready to take on college. I wasn't even 17.5...felt as though I had been pushed through school...and I needed a break. In the minds of my parents, that really wasn't an option. You're done with high school? Pack your bags and go to college in the fall.

So, I did. And I figured that as long as I had to do it, I might as well get it over with in as short of an order as possible---finishing my degree requirements in less than 3 years. I'm not one of those people you'll find who will extoll the virtues of college and what a wonderful experience it was. It was just another hoop to jump through, as far as I was concerned. I'm sure that this was why I didn't get interested in teaching until the month I graduated from college.

But I still pine for that "gap year."

I read an article this morning about the current crop of U.S. high school graduates and the prevalence of the "gap year." As you might imagine, with all the (perceived) pressures that go along with college admissions these days, the "gap year" idea is pretty uncommon. "But experts say that as the admissions process gets more stressful, the case for a gap year gets stronger. Colleges generally encourage the practice — as long as students who have committed to one school don't use the extra year to apply elsewhere. Since the 1970s, Harvard has used the letter it sends to admitted applicants to advise them to consider a gap year. Some, like Sarah Lawrence, have sent similar letters after realizing more students than they expected planned to show up in the fall."

I hear very few of my own students talk about taking a year off after high school. Some of the Mormons do head out on their missions. But in general, if you're a kid who has college in mind, then you go right away after high school. In the future, I think I'll keep the following resources in mind:
  • Gapyear.com---A student's guide to taking time out.
  • Yearout Group---Students can use the gap year to live abroad and take part in any number of opportunities to learn a skill or volunteer
  • Taking Off---"A service for students who take time off from the traditional classroom to pursue experiential learning."

I do run into kids from time to time who, like me, aren't all that excited about going to college right away. It's in their plans, but they just feel like they need a year to get their poop in a pile. Maybe being able to hand them some ideas and resources would help their families and them draft a slightly different (and improved) plan for these kids.

1 comment:

EdWonk said...

I love the new look!