Any experience in gap years?

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Registered: 05-13-1998
Any experience in gap years?
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Tue, 01-22-2013 - 2:07pm

DD 15 is looking at all her post high-school options. DD will be applying to universities in the fall but one thing that we've also discussed is the possibility of a gap year. Personally, I think gap years can be beneficial. In DD's particular case, she'll be a young 17 when graduating high school and will have about 3 semesters worth of college units completed. Taking the year won't "put her behind" but could give her a needed "slow down" as she explores a kindled interest in history, political science and law (enough interest that she's considering pulling away from theatre as a career option.... and as many of you know, almost everything DD hasdone to date has been in pursuit of a theatre related goal.... so this is big for her.) I know she'd be interested in some non-theatre internships but not a ton of quality options at the high school level.

My question isn't in the value of the gap year but in the planning of it. How have your children or friend's children planned and managed their gap years? We're witnessing 2 right know... one very successful and has deferred enrollment to a university of choice, the other I think is just being called a gap year because they don't want to say they have no idea what they are doing lol. All the other kids committed to either community or 4-year right off the bat.

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Registered: 07-23-2002
Sat, 01-26-2013 - 4:51pm
Yup, quick reply and edit are making a mess of things, and the order of posts makes no sense. I'm having a little more luck using a different browser (Chrome was not happy) but things are still really messy.

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

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Registered: 05-13-1998
Sat, 01-26-2013 - 3:56pm
No worries. I'm not being allowed to edit at all. When I "quick reply" it's supposed to be directly under the post I'm replying too and instead, it's all going to the bottom. What a mess!
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Registered: 04-09-2006
Sat, 01-26-2013 - 2:06pm
It seems like when I edit, the comment gets moved to the bottom of the list. Yesterday I noticed a typo (my dd first sat in college classes at 15, not 19) and tried to edit...the edit did not "take", but my comment got shifted. So...if it looks like my comment is moving to the bottom of the list, it's just me trying to fix an error. Deborah
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Registered: 04-09-2006
Sat, 01-26-2013 - 2:01pm

My dd19's experience is not typical, but she (as an interest led homeschooler) has been "sitting in" music and art classes in a nearby college since she was 15. So far she has been in jazz band, mariachi, wind ensemble, Drawing 1, Oil 1, and participated in Art Club. This semester she is doing an independent study printmaking class with two beginners and two advanced students. She's also taking piano. Her "safe" option is to enroll in the college, but she'd like to go to art school. In addition to financial constraints (my eldest is still in college), dd19 needs to a) learn to drive and b) bring her math and reading up to snuff so that she doesn't have to take remedial classes, should she attend the local college. (She is good at math but has gaps, and is severely dyslexic.) Anyhow, her opportunity to take classes in which she can do well and has a keen interest one at a time has given her the framework to do very well in those classes and taken the edge off her fear that she will not succeed in college. Deborah

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Registered: 05-13-1998
Sat, 01-26-2013 - 10:24am
She will be applying as a freshmen but if she reaches her goal of getting this particular certificate, every state and UC school in the state agrees to accept the block of classes she's taking as completion of lower-division general eds no matter your major (and I guess many private and out-of-state schools have accepted them too.) You are right though, if they don't put a cap on units or require that she choose a major when she hits 60, I guess she could spend her freshmen year taking whatever without stressing about it being productive to a major. Though, finances are a valid reason to finish early in our situation. Oh, and I don't know how good she'll look in the freshman class. Her test scores are high but her 10th grade grades were bad enough that even a semester of straight "A's" in college doesn't bring her weighted GPA to a 4.0. We've seen what is out there when it comes to academic achievement lol. DD's not going to be that top pick for colleges.
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Registered: 05-27-1998
Fri, 01-25-2013 - 4:35pm

My daughter has a friend who graduated last year and took a gap year. In the fall of her senior year, she decided not to apply to college right away, but to pursue acting jobs and a day job to pay her bills. She was in several community theatre productions (she also wants a career in musical theatre) and worked, I think, as a cashier during the day. She's now applying to colleges with strong musical theatre programs. I don't think she planned out her gap year the way I would if I were doing one. With her, it was more a case of burnout and uncertainty about the future and she just needed time off to think and to make some money.

I know that most colleges we investigated (DD is a senior in HS so we spent last spring looking at liberal arts colleges on the east and west coasts) look favorably on gap years, especially if they are well-thought out and enrich the applicant in some way. They are very common in Europe and the UK, where most kids do not go to university right away.

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Registered: 09-13-1999
Fri, 01-25-2013 - 11:04am

Some quick and rambling additional thoughts:

1.  I completely forgot about two additional gap year kids we know that Miranda's post brought to mind.  Both are artists.  One of my dd's high school friends took a gap year to attend circus school.  He had been involved in acrobatics and circus schools/performance for years and deferred enrollment at an elite school to pursue acrobatics.  The gap year has turned into something longer.  I'm not sure what his plans are with regard to schooling but I understand he is performing in Canada and has become fairly well known in his art.  This was an extremely bright and extremely talented kid who really wasn't sure which way he wanted to go in life.  My guess is that he is the type of person who will have more than one career in his lifetime.

The second person is a member of our extended family who elected to pursue work with American Ballet Theater rather than continue through school. He is continuing to perform in their company and seems happy.  His mother is more ambivalent and is unsure how her son will return to more traditional schooling.

2.  This has nothing to do with anyone in particular and certainly not Turtletime's dd.  I actually do think that a single year is enough to wake a kid up and help him to focus.  No, of course a single year doesn't transform a person from a unfocused child to an adult with a mission but it can be life-changing.  Living without parental structure and without school structure, with workplace requirements or with the new and untested vistas of an unfamiliar world/language--these are powerful forces.   I think it's quite possible that the gap year is most successful in the case of a kid who hasn't grown up enough to take advantage of the opportunities presented in higher education.  The challenge in that case is to find the right formula for that person and make sure that the year isn't spent drifting.  Travel, work, mastery of a certain subject are all good options, again, depending on the individual.

3.  My dd took time off from college to work on a presidential campaign in the US.  She has peers who have left school altogether to work in the computer software industry.  Youngest dd knows graduates from her high school who have left college to work on startups they've created.  Middle dd took a semester to travel and study abroad while still in high school, something pretty unusual but not unheard of at her school.  There isn't a clear path and there are deviations possible at many different points.  It takes some careful planning but I'm definitely a fan of the crooked path.

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Registered: 04-16-2001
Fri, 01-25-2013 - 10:38am

Regarding college level, it may depend on what she decides to pursue.  I would think she would still be applying as a freshman and not as a student with advance standing (which I guess would be a transfer student)?  I think there are lots of advantages to applying as a freshman as your dd's grades and test scores likely will be very attractive in the freshman class profile and there is usually more opportunities for need-based and merit aid.

The college would then look at her coursework and see what applies in terms of general ed and what to her major.  She may still not have to declare a major until end of sophmore year, even if she ends up graduating in three years.  Not all of the Community college credits may apply depending on the college she chooses and the major.  She could still go to college for all four years, even if she has credits somewhere else as those were earned to fulfill high school.  Of course, having her graduate early is financially great.

As for CC, you will find that while you have to wade through a lot, there is a lot of knowledge out there.  Some of the Parents posters are very willing to share their vast experience in navigating this process.  Others, not so much.

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Registered: 05-13-1998
Wed, 01-23-2013 - 1:46pm

I've been reading that the big benefit to deferred enrollment is that you can qualify for those "college only" internships. You are still attached to the college. Still seen as a college student but you aren't taking classes for the year. Of course, negative, can't take any college classes anywhere else in the mean time but if you are taking the gap, that may be OK. If DD decided on a gap year, I believe it would only be in a deferred enrollement situation (that is, if she gets in to any schools!)

Anyway, It is amazing how fast we got here. I have tiptoed on college confidential but it's so hard to weed through what is real and what is myth (or just obnoxious.) I never know what to trust. I'll check out gap years. See if there is anything of value. 

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Registered: 05-13-1998
Wed, 01-23-2013 - 1:34pm

This is why I love you guys. Rational and helpful responses about what's good for the individual.

Miranda, you were right on about your personal experience with working professionally and then trying to move into a college program. DD tends to minimize her accomplishments. She doesn't recognize how consistant and broad her experiences have been. She's done everything from acting, stage managing, script writing, Shakespeare abridgement, education, marketing, event planning, casting, directing, costume builds, light hangs, producing and all in either professional environments, in educational environments that have professional expectations, or environments she's created for those opportunities. Certainly, she has tons more to learn but if she were to major in theatre, she'd be required to start at the beginning with no doubt, very talented individuals but individuals coming largely from a high school theatre environment.

If she takes a gap year, it would be to experience something else and yes, I agree, some travel outside the country would be valuable. I remember your DD's trip as being spectacular for her. Maybe we can find some sort of opportunity like that.... hmmm.

Another consideration is that by accelerating the full grade and by completing 1.5 years of college while in high school, she'll be pushed to decide a major much earlier than normal. Unit and based on how much general ed she will have completed, she may have to commit to a major before her 18th birthday. We don't regret the grade skip and certainly don't regret the program she's in now that allows her to be in college part-time. It's giving her a happy and fulfilling childhood. However, no doubt, it complicates early adulthood a bit.

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