Your child has worked very hard in high school, has taken the SAT and likely has researched colleges. It's been stressful. High school can be fun and challenging and rewarding, but it also has its hardships, its late nights, and its frustrations. It's not all that uncommon for a student to want to take a year off. This is especially true for students who are still not sure what they want their major to be. Often, they feel they need some time to really think about what they want to do for a career. So, what should you do when your child tells you that they want to take a year off before starting college?
Travel and volunteering:
If a gap year is truly needed, then why not do something worthwhile with your time? Especially if your child is still undecided. If finances permit, a trip overseas or to a different city can help widen a student's perspective. This is especially true if they are doing something altruistic during their travel time. There are plenty of programs where a young person can volunteer overseas, teaching English, helping build houses, or in some other way working with underprivileged populations - either within the U.S., or in a foreign country. Very little personal development occurs sitting at home and playing video games. Let your child go out into the world where they can discover themselves and their abilities in new and different ways.
If a gap year is needed, it's a great time to save up some money for future college expenses. Likely your child had some sort of job while in high school, they could continue that job or find something new. Spend the year learning work ethic, and saving some much-needed cash.
Talking with people and exploring careers:
A gap year is a great time to explore options. Your child could spend some time during this year talking with people who work in fields that interest them. Talking with someone who is in a career that your child is considering is a great way for them to get some first-hand information on what that career is really like.
In truth, this may be the best option for your child. For many students who are considering taking a year off, especially for those who are not sure what they want their major to be, the best thing may be to just start school undeclared. The bulk of the classes in the first two years of college are prerequisite classes; classes that are needed for most bachelor degrees. While taking a year off can seem attractive, the best place for a student who has not yet decided on a major is in college. There they can explore different classes and clubs and discover where their interests lie.
A gap year can also cause a student to lose discipline and good study habits. Think about how much of an adjustment it was for your child to go back to school after just a summer off. Imagine what a year would be like!