This spring, college-bound students may find an odd message in their acceptance packet letters: “Congratulations, you’re in. Now go away.”
This is a tongue-in-cheek paraphrase of Middlebury’s admissions letter, according to former dean of admissions Robert Clagett in a recent New York Times article.
Prestigious colleges and universities are increasingly encouraging future freshman to defer their admission for a year in favor of a “gap year.”
The gap year is a growing phenomenon in America among high school students who are about to graduate. It stems from the British tradition of spending a year after high school in a structured time of personal growth, such as volunteer work, independent travel, working, interning or a combination of these elements.
Colleges have found that students who take a gap year enter college more mature and ready to handle the academic and social rigors of campus life.
That may be simply because they don’t arrive at the dorms already exhausted. In an article called “Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation,” a group of admissions officers at Harvard University observed that many high school students were entering college worn out by the process of trying to get in.
The pressure put on teenagers to put together a stellar college application takes its toll on young minds. Many students spend so much time focused on getting into college that they don’t develop true passions; they just don’t have the time.
This is where the gap year comes in. It gives students time to travel, get out of their comfort zones, and get to know themselves in the process.
Students often use a gap year to test out their interests in the real world. If they have an interest in marine biology, they could gain their PADI certification while surveying tropical coral reefs with a conservation organization. This kind of experiential learning helps them decide before entering college if they are interested in making biology their academic focus.
From mentoring inner-city teenagers in Chicago to interning at an art gallery in Milan to teaching English in Nepal, there are a dizzying array of options out there for the intrepid gap-year student. And it doesn’t have to break the bank – there are many free and low-cost programs geared toward gap-year students.
If you are the parent of a college-bound student, ask yourself this spring, “Is my child really ready for college?” Students should ask themselves the same question.
College is a time to grow, learn and discover, but at $50,000 a year, students owe it to themselves and their parents to fully embrace the experience. Sometimes that means taking a gap year first.
Julia Rogers is a gap-year adviser and the director of EnRoute Consulting in Stowe, Vt.the original article from nashua telegraph, written by Julia Rogers