Life After High School: Learning Outside the Classroom
For many high school students, being accepted by the 'right' college becomes a rite of passage. The preoccupation with the search is often just one more step following preceding years of striving -- to earn the best grades, to make the right team, to win the game, to get the best scholarship awards. The race starts early. Even preschoolers compete for the right kindergarten, and are deluged with "educational" toys, potentially enriching experiences and social opportunities. By high school the prize is to get into the "right college." The unspecified but implicit rewards include access to the right jobs, the right opportunities, the right friends. Well-meaning parents unknowingly feed into the pressure by providing their children with opportunities for self-fulfillment, scheduling instruction in sports, music, dance, academics. Many kids have little time to just hang out and pursue an individual interest in depth. By early adolescence, some teens show the effects of their hurried lives -- in eating disorders, drinking binges, substance use and other self-destructive behaviors.
The pressure on kids is compounded by the influence of social trends -- the high divorce rate, the mobility of families, the shifting economic picture, the rising costs of higher education, the alienation induced by advances in technology, the possibility of military service. A number of leaders in education, responding to requests for counseling services, are challenging the notion that the traditional educational progression -- preschool to elementary school to middle school to high school to college -- is the only route to success. Many college admissions personnel feel that postponing college entry for one year can offer a worthwhile break in the unrelenting academic pressure of the preceding 12 years.
What are the benefits of a year-off?
A year-off allows students to:
- reflect on what they think would be the college best suited to their needs and preferences
- clarify their interests; become aware of their strengths and weaknesses
- take advantage of learning that goes on outside the classroom
- apply skills in real life situations (i.e., tutoring students in an understaffed area or a foreign country, traveling, working on an environmental project)
- experience life in communities different from those in which they have been living
- explore choices and opportunities beyond the traditional classroom
- learn about a variety of careers before making a critical decision
- enter college with a reinvigorated sense of intellectual curiosity
- gain in maturity, initiative and resourcefulness, all of which make adjustment to college life smoother
Reprinted with the permission of the NYU Child Study Center. © NYU Child Study Center.
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