Have you ever thought that starting college right after high school might not be the best option for you? Maybe you’re a little stressed or confused about what career path you would like to follow or what college is the best fit for you. Don’t forget you have other options: it is perfectly acceptable and often beneficial to take a year off between high school and college to explore other prospects. Discovering other opportunities allows you to grow, mature, and experience something new that will expand your perspective and make your future formal education a more meaningful and purpose-driven endeavor. Since this is a big decision, a plan should be devised in order to receive the most out of this experience.
Research, research, research!! There are many different programs that offer employment, traveling, military, or volunteer placements and it is important that you receive all the information possible. Speaking to individuals who have actually been through the program is a great idea!
Decide how much time you have in between your formal education and high school. You might have 15 months or 3 months. Instead of committing to one program, time might allow you to explore a few different ones.
Next, figure out who will be financing your time off. Will you be working? Does the program have a fee? Are there stipends or scholarships offered? Will your parents be helping?
Finally, be aware of where you would like to spend your time and in what conditions you want to live in. Do you want to be close to home? Do you want to travel to a foreign country or to a different part of the USA? The living situations differ greatly between programs. Some programs are adventure based and spend weeks “roughing it” and others place you with a host family.
Tips for Parents
Remember that college immediately after high school does not guarantee success. The worst reason for your student to go directly to college is because it is expected. As it stands, fewer than 6 in 10 students entering 4-year colleges graduate within six years. Heading off to school without knowing why is not going to improve the odds.
Be open to and support your student’s ideas for alternatives to college. In fact, going to college with the maturity gained from doing something else first can be beneficial for some students.
Stress the importance of planning ahead. Depending on the interest, a gap-year program may also require an application.
It’s important that your student work hard throughout senior year, not letting grades drop at the end since the transcript the college receives for the deferred applicant will be for the complete year. They will want to see consistent effort.
If your student decides to study or volunteer abroad in a developing country, make sure they fully understand the living situation. Culture shock can be very difficult and to get the best experience out of their year off, they should feel safe, healthy and secure.
These Websites are designed to give you information regarding summer programs, interim programs, volunteer opportunities, non-profit jobs, internships and other unique programs.
Student Conservation Association: http://www.thesca.org/ Provides housing, food, and other expenses for volunteers who work from 3-12 months on rural and urban restoration projects.
Americorps: http://americorps.org/A federally operated program combining a service project, with a stipend that may be used for college.
Dynamy: http://www.dynamy.org A year that combines an internship, independent living, individual advising and an Outward Bound experience into an exploration of your skills, ambitions and the world around you.
City Year: http://cityyear.org Gives a student the opportunity to serve as a tutor or mentor in schools, running after school programs and developing youth leadership programs. Stipends and other benefits are provided.
EauPair: http://eaupair.com/ Helps Americans link up as au pairs in countries all over the world.
Global Crossroad: http://www.globalcrossroad.com/index.php Volunteer, internship and job opportunities in India, Nepal, China, Sri Lanka, Thailand,Mongolia, Ghana, Costa Rica, Equador, Kenya and Tibet.
Global Service Corp: http://globalservicecorps.org/ Provides international volunteers worldwide to live and work abroad on projects in developing countries.
Where There Be Dragons: http://wheretherebedragons.com/ Learning opportunities through off-the-beaten path expeditions to China, Thailand, Vietnam,Laos, Cambodia, Tibet, India, Mongolia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru. Trips can be rugged wilderness explorations.
Up With People: http://upwithpeople.org/ This program is a combination of leadership/study abroad/service program that includes enteraning opportunities in music.
National Outdoor Leadership School: http://www.nols.edu/ NOLS teachers outdoor and leadership skills in 10 day to semester long expeditions in different wilderness regions.
Outward Bound: http://outwardbound.org/ Conducts adventure based programs in a number of places around the USA and abroad.
Sea Education Association: www.sea.edu SEA is an Educational experience that challenges students intellectually and physically by combining a sailing adventure of a lifetime with the study of the deep ocean.