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Should Students Take a Year Off After High School?

As your high school seniors race to finish college applications or wait nervously for early decisions, some may be having doubts about being ready for college. Here are some things for you and your child to consider.

by Bob Roth

As High School students approach their senior year, an important question sometimes arises. Are they ready for college?

Students will always be apprehensive about leaving home to attend college. They usually worry about the amount of work, fitting in and making the grades. Parents worry about the expense and whether their children will do well.

While many students head off to college without resolving these issues, others take time off to look at options and alternatives. Reasons for hesitation or delay may include:

- Need time to mature
- Want to travel
- Volunteer for community service
- Want to support a cause
- Need to work to earn money for college
- Want to gain some experience or training
- Lack of motivation
- Need time to figure out what they want to do
- Want to join the military

Personal decisions usually move people toward something or away from something. For high school students, their decision to take some time off is often intended to help them better prepare for college or disclose possible alternatives to college. When the young adult is not a good student, doesn't have a clue about his/her interests and abilities or needs close supervision and guidance, college may not be right at this time.

Opportunities to work, learn and explore should be well planned and closely monitored. The time should be used with a clear purpose in mind. Students can use the experiences to expand their viewpoints about their work and career direction, eliminate areas they dislike and get a good understanding of life in the world of work. However, if the young person decides not to go to college, his/her parents should require them to accept a job and go to work every day. Sitting around at home should not be an option.

Taking time off for the sake of taking time off is seldom a good decision. It is usually a sign of immaturity and dependency. Yes, it may also mean that the student is not ready for college. Parents don't want to send their children off to college, only to have them fail out in the first or second year. Neither do they want their children to graduate with a cumulative average that is completely unimpressive to potential employers. There isn't a high demand for college dropouts and underachievers.

When students delay entering college, they should plan to do something with their time to get better prepared. Summer jobs are great motivators. They help students understand the importance of a good education and a good job. Taking a year long vacation will seldom resolve anything. Therefore, parents would be wise to help the student lay out a plan. That plan should include:

- Specific goals and objectives (What will be evaluated and learned?)
- Testing and career counseling can be helpful. (Include as an objective.)
- A job. (Hard work clarifies choices, builds motivation and improves life skills.)
- A deadline / time limit for each objective (How much time will be allowed?)
- A method for measuring outcomes (Rating scales are usually helpful.)
- Acceptable alternatives to college (Must be realistic and career oriented.)

Parents play a critical role in each step. However, the best results are achieved when the student is fully invested in this process. When a student is simply going through the motions, parents must be firm about the process, the goals, the timing and the outcomes. Otherwise, students will learn little about their capabilities and direction.

For the most focused and capable students, delaying entrance into college is a viable choice for only a few. However, students with broad capabilities and experiences may benefit from a brief delay that can clarify their direction. Since many students have not yet discovered their talents and skills, they may need some time to explore and mature. This can be done in college, at work, through counseling and testing or a combination.

Wise parents work very hard to help their children gain the perspective and motivation that will lead to success when and if they do decide to enter college. When the decision is not to attend college, students must be capable, clear and passionate about their direction and career possibilities.

Bob Roth, a former campus recruiter, is the author of The College Student's Guide To Landing A Great Job -and- The 4 Realities Of Success During and After College. Known as The "College & Career Success" Coach, Bob also writes articles for more than 175 College Career Services Offices and Campus Newspapers. Additionally, Bob has developed 20 Self-Scoring Learning Tools™ that help college students find success. He has been interviewed on numerous radio programs across the country and also by many newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal. Lastly, Bob serves as an Adjunct at Marist College, teaching a course in Career Development. Visit Bob's web site: The4Realities.com.

Categories: Teens, Children,

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New FeatureRelated Articles: Helping Your Teen Decide What to do After High School, Involved Parenting of Your High School Student,

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