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Articles / Applying to College / Gap Year for High School Junior?

May 29, 2004

Gap Year for High School Junior?

Question: My son is going to be a junior in this fall and he is a high honor student at a prep school. He wants to take a year off, but I am worried. Will this hurt him when he applies to college?

Depending on what your son does with his "gap year," it might actually work in his favor at college-admission time. There are many valuable study-abroad and volunteer opportunities that could set your son's college applications apart from others with similar grades and test scores but which boast only the typical high school extracurricular activities. Joining the work force--even in a menial job that will help your son earn cash for college--would be considered worthwhile, too.


However, you do want to make certain that your son has a plan and won't be floundering. You also don't want your son's year off from school to be interpreted by college admission officials as being the result of emotional difficulties or "melt down."

Of course, if you feel that this might be the case, then be sure that your son receives counseling and/or medical attention. There is an enormous amount of pressure on high school students, especially those in high-achieving prep-school communities. Your son might be signaling an overload, so pay attention.

If, however, he simply wants a change or to expand his horizons, we feel that a year off from school could be valuable. For assistance with finding appropriate year-off plans, try these Web sites:

www.interimprograms.com

www.timeoutassociates.com

While gap years that follow high-school graduation are more common than those that come earlier, your son may be wise to recognize that it's now that he needs a break. He will probably return to school refreshed and with more focus, and this could help a lot when it comes to making his college plans down the road.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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