Time Out

February 01, 2002

Time Out
One of my best friends in high school, Cristie Ellis, who's 24 now, got into
Williams College, but told them she wanted to wait a year.  When the rest of us were
freshmen, worrying about papers and frat parties, Cristie was in the Rocky Mountains.  
She spent a semester with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), learning
wilderness survival skills.  She'd write letters home describing the miles she'd hiked and
how she was learning to rock climb and push her limits.
"In high school, there wasn't a lot of time to step back and think about
miyself," says Cristie's younger sister Tari, 21, a Brown University sophomore who did a
semester at a Navajo reservation in New Mexico and a semester in a small town in
India.  "During my year away, I learned a lot about the kind of person I want to be."
"I felt so cool, so lod, so independent," agrees Maggie Turner, 19, a freshman at
Connecticut College who spent a semester in London studying fashion. "I felt amazing."
Convinced?  Your two main obstacles to take a year off are 1) your parents and
2) the potential cost.  Robert Gilpin, an educational consultant, says to let your mom
and dad know that colleges often like it when you take time off, because you come
back more focused and mature.  Tell your parents that you've thought this out and
you're not going to waste a year watching Simpsons reruns.
Start by researching on the Web or talking to a guidance counselor.  Log on to
Robert's consulting firm Web site, www.whereyouheaded.com.  Or use a search engine
like Google, type in some key terms (e.g., "program   Costa Rica   language"), and go
from there.
The financial issue is harder.  A lot of the options that look tempting are not
cheap.  (A semester with NOLS costs from $7,200 to $9,700.  Eek.)  But there are
programs, like the Student Conservation Association (www.sca-inc.org) or Americorps
(www.americorps.org), that are low- or no-cost, or that will pay you a stipend.  The
year after high school is the first opportunity you have to make your own plans.  Why
not get in touch with your crazy, globe-trotting, independent alter ego?

by Rebecca Onion, YM

updated: 13 years ago