Been to a high school graduation lately? Usually an administrator gets up to list off all the colleges the seniors will be headed to in a few months. But is that such a good thing? Should every kid finish high school and head straight off to college?
Maybe not. Time off between high school and college -- often referred to as a gap year, regardless of the actual length of time off the education track -- isn't just for rich kids who have the money to backpack through Europe on Daddy's dime. These days an increasing number of American kids are asking their parents for a little breather after their senior year, and Mom and Dad are saying "OK."
Don't believe me? Believe it or not, your kid's gap year request does not mean they'll never get that college degree. At least one study of kids who deferred college found as many as 90 percent went back ... and graduated.
And the benefits of that deferment for kids and their parents are myriad:
1. Time to work -- College isn't cheap. The average in-state tuition at a "moderate" college was $22,261 in the 2012-2013 school year. That's the cheap end! But a year off can give a kid time to work and build up their funds so they can afford the hefty price of education.
2. Time to make up their mind -- Not every 17-year-old knows what they want to be when they grow up, and even those who think they do may soon be surprised to find it changes. A gap year is a good time to dive into an internship or apprenticeship, to find out whether an intended career is a good fit before spending big money on an education they won't use. It's also a good time to try out different careers, trying to find a good fit.
3. Time to rest -- School is hard. And most kids go for 13 years straight without a break. Would you rather send your kid off to college, only to have them drop out after two semesters because they're burnt out, or have them spend a year doing something else worthwhile before going to college and graduating?
4. Time to volunteer -- Work isn't the only option for a gap year. A young body, a strong back, energy and excitement -- that's what volunteer organizations dream of having at their disposal. If you can afford to support your child while they give back, not only are they giving something to the world, but they're learning a lot about their place in this global village.
5. Time to learn to value college -- Spending a year away from school has a way of making a kid appreciate how much EASIER school is than just about anything in life, especially if you're doing back-breaking work. Is it any surprise a study out of Sydney University found that students who deferred college for a year typically performed better than their peers when they made it to school?
Would your kids benefit from a gap year? Will you let them try it?
Image via Andrew Fox/Corbis