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Does a Gap Year Pay Off?

An increasing number of parents are giving their children the OK to take a break between high school and college. The reasons for the gap year vary from family to family, but they typically are based on the belief that delaying entrance into college can be an invaluable way of personally evolving. ("Bridging the Gap Between High School and College, at a Price," The New York Times, Oct. 5) . 

Contrary to popular belief, students who choose to follow this route are not necessarily emotionally troubled or vocationally confused.  They see the time spent as authentic learning about themselves and the world.  Not all students, however, are good candidates.  Students who benefit the most are inner-directed.  They understand that a gap year is not for lying on a beach all day and partying all night. Moreover, it's not a free ride by any means.  Many gap year programs can cost up to $10,000 and more for about three months.  

If I had children, I would be open to a gap year, provided they had a realistic vision of what it entailed.  Traveling, for example can be educational, but so can work.  It all depends on expectations and objectives.  Most important, I would stress that eventually a gap year will end, and earning a living will begin.  Perhaps that advice alone would help put the experience in proper context.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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