Many students finish high school feeling unprepared or unenthusiastic about returning to academic life in college after a short summer break. More and more, 18-year-olds are opting to spend a year or two working or traveling before enrolling at a university. However appealing, the "gap year" isn't for everyone. Taking time off can be a bad idea for for many students.
It Might Be Hard to Start School Again
The biggest reason to jump straight from high school to college at age 18 is momentum. School is hard, and staying focused on tough, boring classes can be especially difficult for students who have a bit of experience with the outside world. Many young people spend a year earning a full-time income and decide they don't need college. That move might make sense for a few years, but the National Center for Education Statistics confirms that college grads have much better career opportunities in the long run. Jumping right into school avoids the temptation of an early start in the workforce.
You'll Be the Same Age as Your Classmates
Although beginning college later in life has become more common, most freshmen enroll right after high school. According to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, 68 percent of freshman begin school at age 18. One of the most important parts of college is socializing and making new friends, and that project can be challenging for older students. Dorm life, parties and all-nighters are a young person's game. Waiting a few years before enrolling may leave students feeling disconnected from their peers.
Taking Time Off Won't Improve Your Admissions Chances
Some recent high school graduates decide to take a year or two off to improve their chances at admission to a top school. According to College Confidential, a college admissions blog, that's rarely a good strategy. Although colleges value work experience, an entry-level job counts for a lot less than high school grades and test scores. Taking a year off can actually hurt admissions odds if an applicant spends the time partying. Colleges want to see students who work hard, not blow off their free time.
Take a Gap Year Later
For most people, all of the potential advantages to delaying college can be achieved by taking time off after earning a college degree. Many would-be students spend a year traveling, but college can make travel even more enriching. Taking a few semesters of a foreign language allows grads to interact with locals, for example. Others take time off to work, but work options are almost always better for people with degrees in hand. Instead of picking up shifts at the local restaurant, a college grad can land an internship in an interesting field.
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