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#1 Jane in NC

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 07:48 AM

Having had several conversations with parents who admitted that they wish they had encouraged their high school grad to take a gap instead of rushing off to college (often unsure of what he would be studying or unsure of his place in the general world), I thought it might be useful to have a general chat about gaps.

 

There are some very exotic and pricey gap programs out there but other kids take a gap year without breaking the bank. 

 

Process:  some gappers apply to college in the traditional fashion, then request a deferral.  It is my understanding that most colleges will defer a student's admission for the sake of a gap.

 

Other gappers work or travel, then apply to college.  This might be the better option for students who are unclear on what they want to do with their lives.

 

One of my son's friends lived at home and worked during her gap.  Not terribly interesting, but this allowed her to have a break between high school and uni--and save some money.

 

Another of my son's friends took a gap after one year of college.  He was not sure about the direction of the program he was in and wanted some time off to consider his options. He worked that year, traveled too. The following fall, he enrolled in a different program and is a much happier camper.

 

How has your student or family friend benefited from a gap? Are there any considerations or disadvantages that should be mentioned?  Some universities are even funding the gap.  (Tufts University article.)


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#2 Heigh Ho

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 08:00 AM

The gap year advantages that I'm hearing are all about culture and worldview. Some here take the year in Israel for ex.  The disadvantage is economic, as we're rural and there just aren't the jobs here ... far easier to find a job in a college town. One of ds's friends dropped out of college to pursue his business, but stayed in the college town for that reason..he can work enough for eating/rent and bring his business up to speed.


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#3 Jane in NC

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 08:13 AM

One other issue for discussion:  If the purpose of the gap is to help a kid find direction, does the student have difficulty finding a meaningful gap year experience?  The last thing anyone would want to see is a kid spending his gap year playing video games!

 

 


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#4 Hoggirl

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 08:35 AM

I haven't looked at gap year programs in awhile, but when I did, many of them were not going to be available to my ds because of his grade skip and young age. A lot of them seemed to require being 18 years old to participate. So, I do think for some who desire their child to mature a bit before heading off, finding a *structured*, planned program (although I know many of these are pricey) can be a challenge. At least that is what I discovered.

#5 FaithManor

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 08:46 AM

Well, I don't have a lot of personal experience. DD was just ready to go and knew what she wanted. It seems that the next two children are as well. The youngest though...he is academically well ahead of his emotional maturity, and shy to boot, so I could definitely see us pursuing a gap year. It would include volunteer work and some travel. Around here, teens can not get jobs. The economy is bad, unemployment is high, and the jobs that teens used to do are taken by adults with many years work experience whose unemployment checks ran out and they still hadn't found work. It is nearly impossible to find a job for a teen/ recent high school graduate within any kind of reasonable commute in this area. So, I wouldn't pressure him to find work. I would be happy with volunteer service, and I'd try very hard to line that up in a variety of his areas of interest.

 

Planned gap years are good. Unplanned, not so much. The kids in our community who do not go directly to college, trade school, or into a parent or grandparent's business, have this tendency to take a lot of time off...a lot...as in several years of living off mom and dad and NOT moving forward with anything. So, that's a concern. If ds is given a gap year, it will be a well thought out and planned one, and then he will apply to college for the following year. We would also look at the longish commute to U of MI in Flint for a few classes...nothing full time but definitely say Calc 2 and college physics so he would keep some necessary skills up to date.

 

Economically, it's pretty rare to see a gap year that includes travel for most of the kids in this area. The mean income is $32,000.00. Dh is one of the top earners in the county. We live comfortably, but not well off if that gives you an idea. So, while we could afford a trip for ds, most of the parents we know would be unable. The exceptions are some of the 4-H kids. Our extension office hires two 18 year old summer interns each year to help with all of the preparations for the county fair. It's a paid job, and some of these kids are eligible for 4-H oversees trips. These are usually short one-three weeks at most. But, their summer intern job pays for the trip and since their family incomes tend to be on the lower side, they usually can get the Pell Grant, and other grants combined with small student loans to pay for college with many headed straight to MSU because they are 4-H's sponsoring organization and go out of their way to make stellar 4-H'ers able to afford school. Then there is the $12,000.00 4-H scholarship to six statewide 4-H winners, and our county has another $2500.00 to one 4-H member each year. Some of the kids will do a gap year in order to get in more volunteer service, including some of the stuff on campus itself, in order to better position them for these scholarships. These kids do come out a little bit ahead with the gap year, and sometimes they do get part-time paid work at the end of the internship for the extension office as big events come up and extra hands are needed. To be honest, these are the only gap year kids I know of personally who do really, really well and have a good year. That said, these are also kids that are pretty focused to begin with and aren't really trying to figure out what they want to do in life. They are trying to figure out how to make their dream affordable instead.

 

I had a gap year. This was due to the fact that I had just turned 16 when I graduated from high school on independent study because they didn't have dual enrollment, didn't offer much in the way of honors courses, etc. I used that year to spend about 6 hours a day practicing the piano for college auditions, attending concerts, accompanying for any type of professional gig I could land, etc. Outside of a few piano students, I didn't work per se. I took some coursework at U of M Flint, and Clep tested out of English, History, and a couple of other courses so the combined total put me in school as a sophomore at 17, but with freshman music scholarships which really helped me out financially. It was a very focused gap year.

 

Dh's brother took a gap year. He had been a young graduate anyway, only 17 due to an October birthday, and was waffling between two different majors each of which had a different set of prerequisites so changing mid-stream would be costly. He taught sailing. Yes, you read that right! The guy was the master of sailboats. The Florida county they lived in had adult boat safety and sailboat classes offered at the community center and needed a new instructor. He got the job and taught these. I think he was paid $50.00 per class period and averaged anywhere from 5-25 students depending on the class. So, he wasn't raking in any big money by any stretch, but he around the community college faculty and had a chance to talk with some people with expertise about his passions and natural skills as it pertained to his options in college. They helped him hone in on his major, and did a great job. Once he went to college he went straight through his BA and then his MA, and he's been VERY good at his career. Still loves sailing!

 

And no, a gap year of video game playing would not happen. Now, my boy that is very talented in computer programming, IF he were taking a gap year, and if that year included an unpaid internship at my husband's employer, then I would have NO problem with him living off us and spending some time on his android applications which he sells for 99 cents each. If he ever hit on a really popular one, that would pay off for sure. Again, the focus would be business, not entertainment...then again, if he put in 40 hour weeks with his dad doing IT work for GM, I would not begrudge him a good game of Minecraft!

 

I think a gap year like the one SWB described for her eldest, Christopher, would be wonderful. He did volunteer work in Africa and China if memory serves...exact locations I am fuzzy on, and that year was very well planned. However, I don't think most families can afford a year like that. Hmmm...speaking of graduations...isn't Benjamin ready to graduate? Christopher was the same age as our DD and I think they graduated the same year. I thought her next oldest was one year older then my next, but I could be wrong. Maybe we could get Susan to weigh in and if Benjamin or Daniel are taking gaps years, she'll tell us what she has planned and how they went about designing the year.


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#6 Teachin'Mine

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 09:01 AM

Faith, just a caution about taking any college classes during a gap year is that many or most colleges don't allow that.  It's not the college where the courses are taking that doesn't allow it, it's the college the student plans to attend the following year.  While college classes taken during high school may be fine for freshman status, many don't allow even one college class after high school graduation.  Definitely check with the individual colleges!


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#7 Jane in NC

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 09:13 AM

Faith,

 

Around here gaps are relatively unknown too unless it is a break from college study to earn money or determine direction.  For young people whom we know in the Northeast, gap years are more common.  But these kids tend to come from more affluent families.

 

I awoke this morning to some distressing news about a young man who had formerly been a part of our lives.  He is one of the Lost Boys--I seem to know too many of them!  But thinking about him led me to think about other young men whom we know who have had some difficulty determining where in the world they should be headed.  (There are probably Lost Girls too; I just know too many Lost Boys.  :( )

 

Grandparents of one of these young men have wished that their grandson had taken a gap. I have often wondered how a boy who lacks direction plans a gap, particularly if the family is not well heeled.  I can see someone who is curious about the world applying for a Rotary scholarship and taking the bull by the horns, so to speak.  But someone who is so unsure, slightly bored with life, possibly all too tempted by substances--how do parents help these kids plan a meaningful gap, i.e. an opportunity to get their act together!

 

I do some volunteer work that allows me to have one on one time with teens.  Our conversations are all over the place but I often like to ask questions about college and beyond, an opportunity for these kids to articulate ideas to an adult who is not a parent.  One of these days, maybe someone will ask me about gaps.  In the meantime, I think perhaps too much about what happened along the way with the Lost Boys...



#8 Heigh Ho

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 09:27 AM

Parents of Lost Boys that I know are directing their son to the National Guard, or insisting that they attend CC part-time, working on gen ed requirements.



#9 Jane in NC

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 09:37 AM

Parents of Lost Boys that I know are directing their son to the National Guard, or insisting that they attend CC part-time, working on gen ed requirements.

Yup.  CC part time and part time work--usually at minimum wage jobs unless a family member owns a construction or landscaping business. 

 

I know that it is getting more difficult to be accepted in some of the military branches (Navy, Marines) but what is the situation with the National Guard?



#10 Alice

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 09:42 AM

I'm reading this thread with interest. I don't have much to say since we haven't gotten to this point yet. I did want to add though that for us we are planning for gap years for all three kids and hope to be able to give that to them. They all have savings accounts and one of the things we've talked about saving for is a gap year. (We also have college accounts, these are separate and for their allowance, birthday money, etc.) We're taking the approach of talking as they get older about what they might envision doing in that year so they can think about it ahead of time. 

 

The main reason we want them to do gap years is that I wish I'd had one. :) I was very directed and knew I wanted to be a doctor. My parents had little money and there was no way I could take time off to travel or do pursue an interest. I won a scholarship to college that was fantastic but that didn't pay for study abroad (not complaining, I was very blessed). So I went from working very hard in high school to college and double majoring in Biology/Chemistry to medical school to residency with no time off. It's all worked out fine but there are so many things that it becomes harder to do when you get older and have a job and kids. If we are able to give them a year to pursue interests or travel I want them to have that. 


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#11 FaithManor

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 09:43 AM

Faith, just a caution about taking any college classes during a gap year is that many or most colleges don't allow that.  It's not the college where the courses are taking that doesn't allow it, it's the college the student plans to attend the following year.  While college classes taken during high school may be fine for freshman status, many don't allow even one college class after high school graduation.  Definitely check with the individual colleges!

Yes, I should have made it clear that the student would not be applying for deferred status such as Christopher Bauer did. The student would not have applied to college during the senior year and waited for the following year while taking those courses to apply. So, very similar to being a community college student and then transferring to the university. I should have made that clear. DS would not apply for deferred status and anyone who does, should definitely not take coursework.

 

Thanks,

Faith



#12 FaithManor

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 10:07 AM

Jane, I'm sorry to hear about your bad news. I have to confess that we had some terrible news this past autumn about one of our former couch surfers. It is REALLY hard to get past.

 

That said, I should have discussed our couch surfers. They have all been kids who didn't know what they wanted to do with themselves and had very limited resources and skill sets. They had gap years because they were basically booted out of their homes on their 18th birthdays, and didn't have many options nor any sense of direction - none of them had been in trouble with the law, none...we draw the line at taking kids out of juvenile detention because we are still raising our own kids and need to think of their safety and well being. Most of them needed counseling, and a mom or dad person in their lives to love them since most of our surfers have come from abusive homes where substance abuse is common, though one came from a Bill Gothard following house and was a female who had not been given any schoolwork beyond 8th grade because her parents wanted her to marry a boy in the church as soon as she turned 18. She refused, got labeled a rebellious sinner who was unredeemable, and ended up living part-time with us and part-time with my parents two blocks away. I spent two years tutoring her and getting her to the place that she should go to community college with confidence. It was a very long road for her, and thankfully, she is not the one I referred to above.

 

Again, these are not instances of gap years with involved parents and careful planning. These are "life kicked me in the gut and I have no idea what to do, have limited resources, and am suffering clinical depression" gap years in which getting kids on the road to mental and emotional health is way more important than, "What do I want to be when I grow up?". Usually, along that journey, they found what they wanted to do or if they didn't discover a passion or interest they could channel into eventually becoming financially viable, they figured out something they were willing to do that will earn a decent wage and benefits and not make them really unhappy. For some, they were so far behind that their dream was really just about out of reach, realistically. I hate to say that, but between intensive need of therapy, plus being profoundly undereducated for someone their age, deficits like Grand Canyons academically and sometimes even with interpersonal/social skills, at some point we had to say, "It's time to be realistic. You will not be able to consider pre-vet for another four or five years and then you'll have 7 years of school/internship. But, with another year of tutoring, you can then take a year of remedial coursework at the CC. which will allow you to then enter the two year vet-tech program after that. You'll be 25 when you're done, but then if you work for a vet for a while and absorb a lot of scientific knowledge while continuing CC classes in math and science to get your skill set up, you could then maybe afford to apply to pre-vet at MSU." It's not easy for them to hear, but at some point we also can't house them forever and realize that allowing them to remain adrift with no plan is a detriment to their self-esteem and backfires so the big dream needs to get put on the back burner and something acceptable needs to be carved out of the rubble.

 

These are what I would call, unusual gap years. That said, if I had a child with depression, you can guarantee they would have a gap year or two in order to get on the road to health BEFORE we would send them off to university on their own. I've seen this first hand and have no desire to risk my child's future in order to get them out of the house on the traditional time frame, and it would definitely include re-entering the workforce myself in order to the funds to do whatever was necessary on their behalf.


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#13 Jane in NC

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 11:01 AM

That said, if I had a child with depression, you can guarantee they would have a gap year or two in order to get on the road to health BEFORE we would send them off to university on their own. I've seen this first hand and have no desire to risk my child's future in order to get them out of the house on the traditional time frame, and it would definitely include re-entering the workforce myself in order to the funds to do whatever was necessary on their behalf.

Two of my son's friends had issues with depression during their first year of college.  I am not sure if this is something that was identifiable before they departed.  Maybe in one case--he is the guy who should have had a gap in retrospect although I keep wondering what kind of gap would have helped him find himself. 

 

This is tough, Faith.  For kids who live in small towns, remaining at home may not help the problem. One of my son's pals who dropped out of college after a year found himself at home in the autumn with all of his high school friends off to college.  This did not help him with his own well being.  (My suggestion had been for him to move in with this grandparents and find a part time job, attend CC in their town.  Perhaps by helping his elderly grandparents he would have found some greater meaning than in virtual worlds.)

 

Alice:  When my son was college shopping, I was the one lured by international study programs.  He, being a Well Traveled Lad, seemed less intrigued.  Now, as a college senior, in his best of all possible worlds he will live and work abroad.  Funny how these things happen...



#14 bugs

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Posted 19 March 2014 - 06:38 AM

The main reason we want them to do gap years is that I wish I'd had one. :) I was very directed and knew I wanted to be a doctor. My parents had little money and there was no way I could take time off to travel or do pursue an interest. I won a scholarship to college that was fantastic but that didn't pay for study abroad (not complaining, I was very blessed). So I went from working very hard in high school to college and double majoring in Biology/Chemistry to medical school to residency with no time off. It's all worked out fine but there are so many things that it becomes harder to do when you get older and have a job and kids.  

 

Except for the doctor and double major thing I could have written this. So I am glad my daughter is taking a gap year.

 

She is not sure what she wants to do and felt too stressed at the beginning of her senior year to have applied anywhere.  She lifeguards at the YMCA, so she is and will be employed during this gap year. She wants to travel, but is not sure how to do it safely as a female.

 

I am a little nervous about this upcoming year because she only has a vague idea of what she wants to do. I guess I had hope taking classes at the cc would help.  Guess it just gave her more options to swirl around her brain. 



#15 Heigh Ho

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Posted 19 March 2014 - 06:47 AM



I know that it is getting more difficult to be accepted in some of the military branches (Navy, Marines) but what is the situation with the National Guard?


I am sure it varies regionally. Here, if they have the academics to go into electronics, or they have potential to be good at fighting plus are in shape/did varsity athletics they have a good shot.

#16 Corraleno

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Posted 19 March 2014 - 01:47 PM

I have a question about gap years and deferrals: If a student gets a deferral of admission from one college, but then, during the course of the gap year, thinks he may want to apply to other colleges as well, what is the procedure? Would he have to withdraw his acceptance at the original college, and then reapply to that college along with any other colleges he's interested in?

 

I would think that many students' interests and priorities might change during a gap year, or if they did something really unusual or impressive, their competitiveness for top colleges might improve as well, so this must be something that comes up from time to time.



#17 MIch elle

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Posted 19 March 2014 - 01:54 PM

We know two boys who took gap years to follow their passion - hockey.  One boy was homeschooled k-8, public high school; second boy was public/private school k-12.

 

The first boy took 2 yrs to play hockey and is now, at age 20, a freshman in college playing hockey for his college. 

 

The second boy is now in his second year of playing hockey and his mother insists that he WILL be a college freshman this fall; he will be a 20 yo college freshman.  They hope that he will be able to play hockey as a college freshman.

 

I think both boys/families are happy with their decision at this point. 


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#18 Jane in NC

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Posted 19 March 2014 - 02:13 PM

We know two boys who took gap years to follow their passion - hockey.  One boy was homeschooled k-8, public high school; second boy was public/private school k-12.

 

The first boy took 2 yrs to play hockey and is now, at age 20, a freshman in college playing hockey for his college. 

 

The second boy is now in his second year of playing hockey and his mother insists that he WILL be a college freshman this fall; he will be a 20 yo college freshman.  They hope that he will be able to play hockey as a college freshman.

 

I think both boys/families are happy with their decision at this point. 

 

My nephew played junior's hockey in Canada and then enrolled as a 21 year old freshman at university where he played hockey. This seems pretty common for hockey players. 

 

He did not apply to college as an eighteen year old and ask for a gap though.  The Canadian hockey experience was terrific for him!  He had minimal patience for college freshmen by the time he landed though.

 

 



#19 Jaybee

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 09:37 AM

Our daughter took a gap year. She went to a gap-year program that included work, travel, Bible studies, studies of Christian classics, humanitarian aid, outdoor activities, etc., on a scholarship. It was a great choice for her, moving from ex-pat status and a small private school to a large public university. It helped ground her and helped her adjust to American culture in a more gradual and protected way. Her university deferred her scholarships/admittance for a year, just asked for a letter specifying what she would be doing and why. 


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#20 ocelotmom

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 10:47 AM

My brother did AmeriCorps for a year immediately after high school. It was awesome for him, provided structure, and covered his basic living expenses as well as some of his college expenses afterwards. 

 

I can't remember if he applied to college straight out of high school and got a deferment, or applied a year later. I suspect it was the latter, and I suspect he got into a much better university than his grades alone would have allowed because of it.



#21 maize

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 11:16 AM

Most of my kids will likely spend 1.5-2 years as LDS missionaries in between high school and college. Not exactly an inexpensive option (I expect them to save what money they can and we will pay the rest) but meaningful and provides lots of experience in dedication, self-discipline, conflict resolution, and possible foreign living and language.

Most young people I know who serve missions right after high school apply for college first then request a deferral. The exception I can think of is the military academies, which don't as far as I know allow deferrals.

#22 Harriet Vane

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 12:22 PM

Our daughter took a gap year. She went to a gap-year program that included work, travel, Bible studies, studies of Christian classics, humanitarian aid, outdoor activities, etc., on a scholarship. It was a great choice for her, moving from ex-pat status and a small private school to a large public university. It helped ground her and helped her adjust to American culture in a more gradual and protected way. Her university deferred her scholarships/admittance for a year, just asked for a letter specifying what she would be doing and why. 

 

What program was this?

 

My dd is waffling between putting together her own gap year versus trying to engage in a more formal program for a gap year.



#23 Jaybee

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 03:33 PM

I'll PM you, Harriet.



#24 Lori D.

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 10:54 PM

Bumping, hopefully for more eyeballs and more input / experiences! :)



#25 suzanne4

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 07:16 AM

 

Te what I would call, unusual gap years. That said, if I had a child with depression, you can guarantee they would have a gap year or two in order to get on the road to health BEFORE we would send them off to university on their own. I've seen this first hand and have no desire to risk my child's future in order to get them out of the house on the traditional time frame, and it would definitely include re-entering the workforce myself in order to the funds to do whatever was necessary on their behalf.

 

I have a dd with depression, and I struggled with what to do. I was very concerned about her safety, but she wanted to go, and she was doing terribly here.  She is doing better there than she was here.  You never know what might be best for each child, but you try to figure it out.  I dread vacations and summer because she is so miserable here. I think it was good for her to get out of here and get a fresh start.  She was refusing counseling after she turned eighteen. She was definitely in a bad place. I wanted to help her get out of it, but I couldn't.  Sending her away has been good for her, and she just started counseling there. I am still very worried about her, but I think it would have been worse if she had stayed home. She would have felt like a failure and been bored with the lack of structure.  At least there, she is keeping busy and working toward something.  It just depends on the individual. 


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#26 Harpymom

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 05:30 AM

My oldest didn't expect to take a gap year but ended up with one, and yes, he played a fair amount of video games that year!  In his senior year of homeschool he took a chemistry class at an LAC nearby and was working on college apps for marine biology programs.  He realized late in the fall semester how much he loved chemistry and stopped the application process for that year, continuing on with Chem 2 at the college in the spring and re-visiting colleges with an eye  toward a chemistry major.  The following fall he started applications again, by now "graduated" and officially on gap year.  He continued to work as a climbing guide, spent a lot of time outside and with his younger siblings, drove me a little bit crazy, and was eventually accepted to WPI for his degree in chemical engineering.  Even though he was 18, we had a rule for one hour a day of computer game time and kept him to it, which certainly added to his delight in heading off to college and away from our Luddite ways!

 

He was cranky at first about being older than his classmates, but by the end he was grateful, realizing his maturity level had indeed contributed to his success.  My personal feeling is that kids should apply to college, get in, choose, and defer rather than do it the way my son did, but obviously that didn't happen for us at all!  He loves what he's doing now.  He was truly inspired by the chem teacher in that DE class, which nobody saw coming.  

 

I've just had the honor of helping one of my "honorary" kids (as Faith Manor calls them) apply to five colleges.  He's currently on gap year, unplanned but necessary for mental health after his parents announced their divorce a few months before he graduated from high school.  He was homeschooled until 6th grade then put into school as his family began a slow break-up. He had a challenging time in high school - popular, varsity soccer captain but with druggy friends and no parents laying down any kind of law.  His senior year was a disaster that included a hospitalization for injuries incurred while drunk.  There was no way he had the personal resources to apply to schools, his parents gave him no guidance, and he had zero idea of what he wanted to do.  He spent the summer working, then took a WOOF trip to Ireland this winter with his two older siblings who both interrupted their college schedules to make space to be with him.  Lo and behold, he came back from this trip sober and determined to apply to colleges.

 

His gpa stayed in the c+ range, but his SAT scores are pretty decent.  The guidance office at the high school had written him off, but he has forged ahead and figured out most of what he needed. His Common App essay on his personal story broke my heart.  He wrote about his childhood spent learning and playing at home and in the national park, finding wisdom and solace in nature and how he was able to draw on that inner groundedness when times were hard later.  I hope he will be accepted somewhere that he can thrive.  I think his choices were three solid matches, one reach, one safety, but you never know. His gap year has certainly been a blessing.


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#27 Laura Corin

Laura Corin

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 07:04 AM

Hobbes is taking a gap year.  He has been offered conditional university places and has deferred them for a year.  He plans to work through the summer and autumn (we live in a tourist area so there are jobs) while taking evening classes at the local university.  He then wants to go to France for an immersion programme next year.  More plans will evolve, I'm sure.


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