By David R. Parker, Ph.D.
Every fall, hundreds of thousands of high school graduates pack up the car, carefully stow their new electronics, take a deep breath, and head off to college. Some of these students take quite a few breaths because, deep down, they realize they aren’t ready for the huge transition before them. For decades, many European students have taken a Gap Year to ensure this transition goes smoothly. After graduating from high school, they spend a year working, traveling, and developing greater independence before starting university the following fall.
More and more U.S. colleges and universities are recommending this practice, too. In fact, Ivy League institutions such as Harvard and Yale provide scholarships just to students who have completed a Gap Year. Why? Because research shows that these students are more likely to succeed, persist, and graduate as the result of the increased maturity and focus they bring to college a year later.
Our society is GO-GO-GO. But few of us feel comfortable GOing against the tide. So, it can be very difficult for students and parents to consider the benefits of deferring admission for a year before writing all those tuition checks. Parents like to compare notes at this time of year during backyard barbecues or in the supermarket aisles: “So, where is Suzie going to college this fall?” Unlike other countries, we don’t yet have a culture that makes it comfortable to say, “She’ll attend DePauw next year but is working at Habitat for Humanity’s Midwest office this fall and looking into internships for the spring. She wanted some time to just catch her breath and learn more about possible majors/careers before diving back into classes again.”
But that’s an incredibly smart plan for many students, especially those with learning or attention issues. We know that such students with disabilities are often delayed in their emotional development by up to three years. We know that a much greater percentage of students with disabilities who start college drop out, or take longer to graduate, than their peers without disabilities. At CRG, we also know that far too many young adults come to see us in December, embarrassed and confused by the fact that they struggled in their first college semester despite doing well in high school. They realized too late that…they just weren’t ready to start college.
If this sounds like you or someone you know, CRG’s new Gap Year Services may be of interest. Dr. Dana Lasek (psychologist) and Dr. David Parker (Postsecondary Disability Specialist/ADD&Life Coach) will launch these services next month. Gap Year will run from September 2015 to April 2016. Participating students need to be high school graduates. It’s likely they will have learning or attention issues (e.g., LD, ADHD, Asperger’s, depression, anxiety) although this is not required. They have been accepted into colleges or are thinking strongly of applying. But they would benefit from a year of structured activities and accountability to work on personal growth goals in the meantime. This will be unique to each student but may include work experience (including volunteer activities), more detailed searches for the right college and major career exploration, developing strong study skills, and strengthening daily living skills (i.e., grocery shopping, using public transportation, following a budget, and doing the laundry).
For more information, visit our website and call our front office at (317) 575-9111 soon to schedule an intake appointment. Gap Year begins the week of September 7, 2015. Dr. Lasek or Dr. Parker would be happy to call you back to discuss if this option is right for you or your young adult.