"Taking a Year Off Before Starting College"

January 06, 2002

Taking a Year Off Before Starting College

In this season of early acceptances - and rejections - some high school seniors
may decide that time off from school is a better option than college. But what to do?
And who should do it?  
"Kids who are tired, bored, burned out. Those who haven't done well and want
to do better," said Bob Gilpin, a history teacher at Milton Academy and president of
Time-Out Associates, a counseling firm that helps high school seniors come up with
alternatives to college. Seniors, especially those from middle- and upper-middle-class
districts, face intense pressure to graduate and go right to college. But, too often,
some students are not ready to continue. Education fatigue is the most common reason
students take a year off, according to research from the National PTA.  
"In terms of academic and social maturity, many students would benefit from a
directed year off," said Thomas Hughart, director of guidance at Wellesley High School.
The idea also appeals to students "who have absolutely no idea what they want to do,"
he said.  
Once a rare option in college admissions, one-year deferrals are now routinely
available to students admitted even to prestigious colleges. Harvard College suggests
that students take a year off in its acceptance letters, and 50 to 75 students annually
take this option, according to the school's Web site.  
But Gilpin said the competition between colleges to yield the right size class
has prompted some to restrict deferrals.  
"Connecticut College, for example, will grant a deferral, but it requires students
to sign a pledge card that he or she will not apply elsewhere during the deferral
period," he said.  
Although such options as worldwide travel, internships, and volunteering can
cost as much as a year in college, Gilpin said, there are affordable options for those
taking a year off. City Year (www.cityyear.org), Americorps (www.americorps.org), and
The Student Conservation Association (www.sca-inc.org) are programs with low
tuitions, stipends, and scholarships.  
"Kids who take a year off to do something volunteer-oriented like City Year
often end up more mature and ready for college when the year is over," said Brad
MacGowan, head of career and college counseling at Newton North High School.  
And parents shouldn't worry that a year off from school spells trouble, Gilpin
said. What's worse is flunking out the first year and having to carry the burden of a low
GPA for the rest of the academic career, he said.  
"A well-planned time-out can make all the difference between college for all the
right reasons - or an expensive interlude," Gilpin said.

by Marie C Franklin, Boston Globe

updated: 13 years ago