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Can Taking a Year Off After High School Save You Time and Money?

Increasingly, students who feel burned out before entering intensive post-secondary study are choosing to participate in gap year adventures. Some people believe that a year off between studies may encourage students to opt out of college altogether. Can taking a year off after high school be a good option?

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Should You Take a Year Off?

The idea of taking a break between high school and college - taking a gap year - is becoming increasingly popular. A gap year is generally defined by an experience - travel, service, or preparation for college. Could it be right for you? And how do you get started?

Think first about why the idea of a gap year is attractive. Are you stressed out, worried about the rigors of college, or trying to determine what you want for your future? Knowing what you want will help you approach the gap year with focus and create an experience that renews both your spirit and commitment to your goals. If a gap year is right for you, the next step is to figure out your plan.

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Gap Year Experience

Myriad options exist to help you create a worthwhile gap year. Some agencies offer life-changing experiences with large price tags, while others offer stipends or help with tuition in exchange for service. You must do your research and plan well.

Travel

You can travel to learn a new language, experience school in a different country, or provide service. A reputable agency can help with the logistics and take care of the planning; you simply concentrate on a phenomenal adventure!

The following websites are great places to start:

  • Gap Year Fairs (www.usagapyearfairs.org)
  • Global Citizen (www.globalcitizenyear.org)
  • Serve Academy (www.serveacademy.com)

Service

AmeriCorps is a valid choice if you're interested in community service. You may be paid a small stipend to cover living expenses and will receive help paying for your education after fulfilling your service obligation.

City Year (www.cityyear.org) is another option for students who want to help solve problems in several cities around the country. Students chosen for City Year assignments can earn scholarships and increase their chances of admission to elite schools.

Preparation for College

Several top-tier colleges, including University of North Carolina, Princeton, and Harvard, promote the idea of taking time off before college. Even if you're not headed to one of those schools, a gap year can still be a real possibility.

Take time during your senior year to apply and investigate colleges that interest you, even if you are planning a gap year. Upon admission, inform them of your plans. You may still need to pay a deposit to reserve your space, but you will be welcomed back with open arms.

If you want to take this time to get ready for college, take one course at a time, and stay in contact with the school you'd ultimately like to attend. Don't take classes that may push graduation farther away.

A Stop on the Journey

No matter what experience you choose, remember that a gap year is not the destination. It should only be a step in the right direction, and should get you on the path to success.

During your year off, spend some time thinking about whether or not college is really right for you.

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