Should Your Child Take a Gap Year? (page 2)

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Updated on Apr 28, 2008

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A gap year should be a measured decision, not a procrastination technique. It should never be used to avoid taking the SAT or ACT on time, stall the need to fill out college applications, or jump into the Senior Slide early. If you have a high schooler under your roof who’s dreaming of taking a year off, keep him on track. Act as if he’s going to college as planned. Once he gains admission, he can call the college to request a deferment, which most admissions offices will gladly grant.

Create a plan B
The best way to start a gap year is with an admissions offer to your dream school in hand. But for students who didn’t get into their college of choice the first time around, a gap offers a second crack at it. Holly Bull, director of the Center for Interim Programs, the oldest gap year advisory service in the country, says that for students who’ve had less than stellar grades during senior year, a gap year offers a second chance to show solid performance, through an academic program abroad or some other curriculum-based program. Sometimes the gap year can make all the difference in getting an acceptance letter the second time around, Bull says. “It’s been known to happen. It’s certainly not a guarantee, not something you can bank on, but we’ve had some.”

Put it in writing
The most successful gap years are full of unexpected surprises along the way. But in between all those surprises lives a lot of planning. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — a chance for your child to see the world and figure out their place in it. If they’re angling for independence, have them prove they deserve it by doing research and coming up with a course of action. From a budget to a schedule to the phone calls needed to land that dream internship, the planning phase is just as vital to the gap year, and just as much a learning experience, as the gap itself. It’s perfectly OK to deviate from the plan once the year begins, but starting without one is a recipe for disaster.


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