We often discuss the types of productive conversations parents can have with their children.  We spend enormous time and energy discussing where students should attend college and the importance of “fit” for students and their families.

College Parents of America long-held position is to suggest all families explore not just where your student wants to go to college but why.   Why college?  This simple question can reveal not only motivations but also reveal the potential value to your student from a GAP Year program.gap-year-sign

Time magazine wrote that a “Gap Year is Many educators tout taking a gap year, saying that kids who step off the academic treadmill after high school to work, travel, volunteer or explore other interests are more mature when they arrive at college and more engaged in their education going forward.”

In addition, Ron Lieber from the New York Times recently wrote “if your teenager is talking about taking a year away from the classroom between high school and college, you may have Malia Obama to thank for that. But if they’re not yet talking about whether to follow her lead, they should be. Taking time off between high school and college or sometime during the undergraduate years, as Ms. Obama is doing before she attends Harvard, has plenty of appeal for high school graduates who don’t know what they want out of college or seek to work, travel or volunteer on the sort of schedule that an academic calendar does not allow.”

 We suggest that parents consider this topic carefully and offer 3 tips for a productive discussion.

  1. Apply to college and evaluate the Gap Year following your admission to schools.  You can choose to defer your admission later.  Don’t let the Gap Year discussion disrupt your college admissions plan.
  2. Define what outcomes you are seeking from a Gap Year. However, a Gap Year is not just a vacation and certainly not a year for just playing games. There are domestic and international programs.  Some focused on community service and others on entrepreneurship.  Some schools, including Princeton University, Harvard University, and Tufts University are even encouraging Gap Year programs for some students. As a result, consider the landscape carefully by checking out the American Gap Year Association or by attending a Gap Year Fair.
  3. Have a structured plan.  The goal of many parents is to help their young-adult have the tools, education, and skills to become self-reliant.  Try to articulate this mutual goal with your student and put some structure to the discussion.