Should You Really Go To College Right After High School? by Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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Right now, many high school seniors are eagerly awaiting April 1 — the final deadline for most college and universities to send out admissions decisions to students who applied this fall and winter. Whether or not those students get into their dream schools, they are most likely planning on attending some college in the fall. That there is an alternative may not have even crossed their minds. As a college admissions consultant who doesn’t pick-and-choose to only work with students with stellar academic and extracurricular records, I’ve met students dealing with a variety of situations, but very few of them have considered taking a year or even semester off—despite the many benefits.

Taking a year off isn’t just for students who aren’t happy with their admissions decisions. In fact, some of the most productive and meaningful gap years come from students who have been admitted to their dream school but request to take a year off. This is the method I recommend—even when students are absolutely sure that they don’t want to or are unable to attend college directly after graduation, it’s still better to apply during high school and then request to defer your matriculation. For a student who has been excelling throughout high school, achieving the kind of grades, test scores, and extracurricular accomplishments that gained them admission into their dream school, they’ve likely been working nonstop for the past four years and are dangerously close to burning out. This usually isn’t a state of mind that will lead to success in college.

I try to help students balance their lives in high school so they aren’t a burnout risk, helping them choose courses and extracurricular activities they are genuinely passionate about and focus on quality over quantity. Even so, for some students, even the most thoughtful, only-what-sparks-joy approach to priorities will lead to a life full of extremely rigorous classes, demanding activities, and lost sleep. For these students, it can be extremely beneficial to take some time after getting into one of their dream schools to prepare for college, pursuing their passions without the restrictions of concerns over GPA and prestige. From starting their own businesses to interning full-time to just taking some time to catch up on sleep, pursue their creative interests, and travel, taking a year to do what truly matters to them without worrying about school or their future career is an incredibly opportunity that, when taken seriously, can change the trajectory of a student’s life.

One of the best reasons to take a gap year is to take advantage of any opportunities one may have to travel abroad. I spoke to Jim Luce, founder of the international nonprofit the J. Luce Foundation, about his gap year and thoughts about the impact of travel on students:

The year I spent after high school overseas changed my life. I had been the editor of my high school newspaper and active in my church, but I didn’t want to study English or theology. My year abroad gave me an enormous interest in history and culture, leading me into Asian Studies, a move that changed the trajectory of my life.

Parents tell me about how a year abroad matured their child, creating a focus previously absent, and an enthusiasm for both life and academic pursuit. There is nothing more powerful than international experience to help us grasp our place in the world and how all people, all thought, all things are interrelated.

That being said, it’s not necessary to take a gap year in order to travel abroad before attending college in the US. Many schools offer the option of studying abroad for freshmen, or there are organizations like Verto Education, which allows students to study and live with a host family in countries like Thailand, Fiji, or the Dominican Republic. If they do well enough in those classes, they are guaranteed a spot at one of Verto’s partner colleges and universities, and their Verto classes transfer so they can still graduate in four years. Programs like this can be ideal for students who didn’t apply to safety schools, have changed their minds about attending college after most deadlines have passed, or are struggling to decide between taking a gap year to travel and going directly to college.

For students who didn’t feel ready to apply to college during their senior year, or didn’t get into their schools of choice (including the poorly-advised students who didn’t apply to any true safety schools), taking a gap year is an excellent opportunity to build up a more impressive resume and college application. Taking a year off in order to reapply to college is rarer in the US than in countries with more rigid or test-based college application processes. American students reapplying to college often focus more on building out their extracurriculars than retaking exams, but if I get to students before they reach this point, I typically recommend that they apply in senior year to ‘safety schools’ that suits their needs and interests and consider transferring after a year or two.

Of course, for some students, a gap year is a necessity, not a luxury. It can be difficult even with a “full ride” to afford college when factoring in textbooks, plane tickets, or even the lost income of three or four years not spent working full time. That being said, I still recommend applying to college in senior year of high school and if necessary, every year thereafter, as the financial aid packages you are offered or are able to negotiate to can vary dramatically year to year and from college to college. Contrary to common misconceptions, competitive private colleges, which generally offer need-based financial aid, are more affordable than public state universities for most families once financial aid is taken into consideration.

Although there are many different ways to use a gap year, from work and internships to travel and personal development, the most crucial benefit students can gain remains the same: a sense of perspective. Both high school and college can be, to varying extents, divorced from the ‘real world,’ and students who take some time to gain perspective and learn about what life is like outside of school and academia often arrive at college more prepared than their peers to take on challenges and make the most of their college years.

March 6, 2019 at 12:55PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs