The Pause That Refreshes
Some students are taking a year off before beginning college, CNN reports:
Because college admissions have become so competitive, many American parents are nervous about their kids taking a year off. As a parent myself, I would be apprehensive if our daughter says that she would like to defer going to school for a year. But not for the reasons given by those interviewed by CNN. I think that once students "get out of the habit" of attending classes on a daily basis, it can be most difficult to get "back in the habit." We'll see in about four years.
Many college admissions officers support the idea. While cautioning that a "gap year" between high school and college isn't for everyone -- and that just goofing off isn't worthwhile -- they say many students who take one return more confident and self-aware.
"Students feel this sense of ownership over their time," said Paul Marthers, dean of admission at Reed College in Oregon, where an unusually high number of incoming students, about 10 percent, defer admission. "They made the decision."
Still, the popularity of gap years appears to be increasing only modestly if at all. Most of a dozen or so colleges contacted in the last week said the number of students who defer admission is relatively small, and flat year to year or even declining as an overall percentage.
In other countries, notably the United Kingdom, gap years are far more popular and an entire travel industry has grown up around them. About 11 percent of all British students take them, according to Tom Griffiths of Gapyear.com, and as many as a third do at some prestigious prep schools. Employers there look beyond degrees and at life experiences when hiring new graduates, he said.
"These are families that somehow see this as not part of the grand plan," said Gail Reardon, who founded a Boston company, Taking Off, that helps students plan gap years. Adds Lee Stetson, dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania: "Not wanting to break stride is the American way."
But experts say that as the admissions process gets more stressful, the case for a gap year gets stronger. Colleges generally encourage the practice -- as long as students who have committed to one school don't use the extra year to apply elsewhere. Since the 1970s, Harvard has used the letter it sends to admitted applicants to advise them to consider a gap year. Some, like Sarah Lawrence, have sent similar letters after realizing more students than they expected planned to show up in the fall.
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