Taking Time Off before College

What do college graduates really know?

Okay, sure – they have hopefully invested mom and dads money wisely by paying attention, and as a result, can now read, recite and remember all the lessons and texts they painstakingly studied over the past four (or so) years. More than likely, they have some sort of resume at this point in their life, which proves without a doubt, they are moving in a direction more impressing than bartending. Yet likely to fill up space on the 8 ½ x 11 inch sheet of paper, they are still forced to include all the little clubs and achievements – like marching band and Jr. Beta, that date back to Middle School, in order to impress perspective employers. Because the truth is, they still know very little. About life!

In many ways, it is preposterous that so many teenagers are asked to make firm decisions about how they want to spend the rest of their life upon high school graduation. These teenagers, entering college – are still depending on clean laundry from mom, and are driving beat up old Datsun’s that haven’t been made in 15 years. They are paying hobos to buy them cigarettes and beer because legally, they aren’t able to do so themselves. Yet, adults expect them to know what they want to do for a living. HA! Few know what they want to do Friday night.

And what is wrong with a little life experience? Taking time off before college can be a good thing!

There is a huge push parents make to get their kids into the best colleges to pursue the best careers that make the best salaries. Kids, rather than following their own interests and perhaps talents, are reneging on fields like nursing or teaching because they ‘hear’ the salaries aren’t comparable to a broker or orthodontist. Even so, with no real life experience under their belt such as dealing with paying bills, being responsible for their decisions, paving their own path and even something as simple as keeping track of their car insurance policy, how are they going to be equipped to handle some of these high stress jobs? Even with a four-year college degree, the lack of maturity and the clinging to old passed down ideals doesn’t really make them world ready. Let’s face it; college life is nothing like real life!

And what is the harm in waiting a year or two?

Think about it this way. There are a lot of 30 something’s that sit back and look at their life and truly wish they made some alternative decisions rather than following the pushy lead of educators and parentals. Suddenly, they are trapped into looking at the teeth of grimy teenagers all day, and have three kids at home to provide for. They remember how they used to love to draw or write, or how they really wanted to pick a slot with the Coast Guard, rather than go to Orthodontic school. Yet they were rushed and made to feel as if they were being lazy and indecisive, destined to follow the map to Loserville if they waited even a few months to start their collegiate career. And now they are trapped, and cannot experiment with their dreams or passions. Or learn new real life skills. It’s definitely too late to visit another country, learn about other cultures, feel what its like to really need something, take the other fork in the road or even have some time to figure out who they really are and what they really love about life. Poll countless married with kid couples and they will admit, they wished they took some time for themselves before rushing to be grown ups.

From the time children are born, they are groomed into the image of what mom and dad and the world expect them to be. They spend 12 or more years in controlled environments at public schools and then are given a longer leash to live in yet another controlled environment. The problem is, that living below the realistic radar doesn’t make anyone any more ready to live or prosper. Just as a 3 year old has one chance at staying home another year or two before going to school – the same is a true for a 17-year-old high school graduate.

There is nothing wrong with taking a little time off between worlds to sort of catch your breath. This doesn’t mean that a recent high school graduate should be allowed to mooch off mom and dad, sleep all day, party all night, not work, and just live the Jimmy Buffet lifestyle. It does mean that they should be allowed to feel the wraths of responsibility and to figure out life without the weighted controlled environment leveraging their choices. Volunteer at the soup kitchen down town, take a trip to Europe, be part of a mission in another part of the world. Get a full time job that doesn’t pay squat, rent an apartment with friends, and grow up a little! There are millions of things that kids (and they are kids) this age can gain from life experience – especially before entering and finalizing college plans.

There are definitely some teens that are ready for what college has to offer. Yet, they are definitely many that just aren’t! This time of transitioning from child to adult can be as severely emotional for a teen as it is for a toddler starting preschool. Remember how much your child matured between the ages of 3 and 4? They will mature that quickly (and possibly more so) in the year that follows graduation. When they do, they can make better choices and decisions for themselves and gain some control of where their life is going. This way, they will never look back, have no regrets, and certainly be able to say that they have some life experience backing up their decisions.

Too often, people in general are in a rush for life to happen. Then one day you wake up and realize that you wish it would slow the heck down….Allowing your child to wait a bit before starting college or university online if they need it, is not time wasted, but life gained.



One Response

  1. The gap year is a wonderful opportunity for the undecided. You know, I first wanted to be a lawyer, but after a year of thinking, I realized how bad that idea was. Now I’m in my second year of law school, which I absolutely love, but didn’t think about until after high school. So I fully support taking time off and considering opportunities after graduation.

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