A gap year is the period between the end of Secondary School/Grade 12 and further study, and it is intended to be exactly that – Just ONE Year! The question that haunts every parent at the end of their child's long school career is: should they do it?!
With Matriculation just around the corner, most teenagers are filled with excitement and anticipation; at this pinnacle point in their lives, they are well aware that the future now holds a certain amount of freedom and adventure and that there are infinite possibilities that come with that freedom. But they are only now beginning to acquaint themselves with their own character, vulnerabilities and strengths. Is freedom going to be a gift or a curse? As a parent, and probably still their financial provider, it is up to you to guide your teenager in the most suitable direction.
Much research has been done to validate that taking a gap year is more beneficial than detrimental. For goal-oriented learners, a gap year can help a young adult gain perspective and, barring extreme circumstances, most focused teenagers are able to pick up where they left off after a short break.
Here are just a few of the benefits to taking time off before entering college or university:
- Maturity: Work experience (including volunteer and goodwill projects) are great résumé-builders and can result in increased focus and maturity—qualities that all competitive colleges and universities like to see in prospective students. Also, prospective employers are increasingly recognising the non-vocational worth of the gap year employee as having more life experience and potentially more business and organisational abilities than their counterparts.
- Focus: With many careers to choose from, learners are often unsure of what to study further. Exploring different jobs will broaden their prospective career choices. If your teenager is still unsure what they want to do, then a gap year should be a consideration rather than emotional breakdowns and wasted money following a bad study choice.
- Preparation: Teenagers will most certainly be better academically prepared for college or university. Students who lack basic study skills may run into difficulties at college and university. If your teenager’s grades or study skills are not up to par by the time they matriculate, then you may want them to consider taking a gap year to improve themselves academically to avoid frustration and disappointment later. Contemplate the option of enrolling in a post-matric programme to enhance their concentrated studying.
- Life Skills: Your child will undoubtedly acquire an appreciation for college or university. If they are going to study only because that's what you want them to do then they may have a hard time appreciating what further study has to offer them. A gap year may shed new light on further education and its advantages. Consider the following situation: Your child takes a year off from college to work full time. They work long hours with very low pay. It won't take them very long to realise that in order to get ahead in life, they need qualifications.
- Rejuvination: A gap year allows students take a step back and “recharge” after years of the daily academic grind.
- Financial Sensibility: Working full time can help teenagers save up for tuition and other tertiary education costs and while it may not cover all of their expenses it can make a big dent and teach them some valuable life skills.
Of course, taking a gap year is not for everyone. For some, the gap year is an unproductive experience, especially if they take it for the wrong reasons or fail to establish a clear plan. If you are unsure about whether your teen is ready for such a big step, discuss it with her, her teachers, and her peers. You will definitely be in a better position to advise her on her future choices once you have gathered all the relevant information to formulate a plan for the future.