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March 14, 2011

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Gap year positives: (1) Possibly make money to pay for college. (2) Allow the student to mature some before entering college, so that they'll focus better once in college.

Gap year negatives: (1) Can be a waste of time, either goofing off or in a crappy low-end job. (2) Socially distances the students from their peers.

Assuming a student can get a good-paying job in their field upon graduation, it makes more financial sense to take a college loan than to take a low-end job before college.

Complicated item.

The earning money now affects the FAFSA and potential for financial aid or grants.If you come from a stable two parent family who work you are screwed in getting grants. Save money you are screwed in loans if you saved to much money.

Does the student have high enough grades to get scholarships? We are looking at $10k in scholarship money for the first two years and applying for more scholarships. It probably would not exist if he was to take a gap year.

Do they know what they want to do? The program my son is going into it would be a detriment and cost us money going to a community college. Instead of a 4 1/2 year program it would probably be 6 if he started out at a community college.4 1/2 years of college is enough. If they don’t know what they want to do then do the community college route or take that gap year to find yourself.

What if he likes to earn money and does not want to go to college? Tough one at that. So make sure they have a job that sucks and will want to go to college. But then again they might not be able to get a job so rather than sit around the house playing x-box go to collge and better yourself.

This "gap year" may be a bad idea for a lot of people. It will probably delay graduation by a full year. This means that the student is waiting another year to start a higher paying job after college. They are basically working a year at $10/hour now instead of working a year at $30/hour later (estimating $30/hour as an after-graduation pay-rate). I'd rather enter the workforce with a college degree in my chosen field a year sooner.

Perhaps its just me, but in this economy isn't the idea of kid being able to find a $10/hr job optimistic? Its been my experience that most lower-wage companies (retail, etc.) will hire people "full time" to the tune of 30 hours a week - usually just shy of what it would take for them to be legally considered full time - and thus they don't have to pay for any benefits for the person.

Also, considering that this money is counted against them when it comes to FAFSA, I think they are probably better off just going straight to college. If they can work part-time while in college, and full time in the summer, it will do them good. Plus many students qualify for work-study scholarships to provide work while they are in school which has the benefits of being almost tax-free, as well (I think - not 100% sure) as not counting against you in FAFSA since it counts as a scholarship instead of earned income.

I have interviewed many kids in the past 10 years or so for my alma mater. There was one student that stood out (for all the wrong reasons). He had graduated from a very prestigious magnate high school in my area. He then took a year off and then applied to colleges. I'll be honest with you, he pretty much wasted a year of his life. He didn't productively use the year off and he came across as someone who was a bit directionless in his career and educational goals. Needless to say, I couldn't give him a strong recommendation and he didn't get in.


If the year is spent working in a job/internship that provides experience for a future career, it may be worth it. Otherwise, it probably depends on whether or not the kid would do anything besides goof off in college too.

Other cons to taking a year off - good grades may become a moot point since they are from more than a year ago, you may have to retake some of the standardized testing to have current scores (and pay to do that), and you'll be out of the habit of studying and writing papers. The last point is NOT one to minimize. It is easy to get out the habits that let one succeed in school, and very hard to get them back after taking a year off from studying.

From my experience, my peers who planned to take a year off to work never even ended up going to college. I think this could be a good idea in certain circumstances, but due to many of the negative possibilities already pointed out in the comments, I don't think it is a good idea for most high school graduates. I would prefer other options to avoid debt (personally, I chose to have the Army pay for my college so I would not have student loans - which comes with its own pros and cons).

As a parent, by the time a child graduates from high school, both the child, parents, and school counselors should have a pretty good idea about the child's strengths and potential.

If you constantly hear "I don't know what I want to be" from a child I would regard that as a big warning sign. Maybe I am very "old school" at age 76 but I have lived long enough to recognize talent when I see it, or to recognize that a teenager is most likely not college material but hopefully may have other talents.

One has to be realistic and accept that only 50% of us have above average academic talent and the rest are "you guessed it" below average.

My three chidren are all grown up now, only one of them was really good academically. She obtained a business degree and found a great job managing a high rise office building for a property management company and had a promising career ahead of her until she met a wealthy, much older, attorney that convinced her to quit her job and become a stay at home Mom. That decision turned out to be a bad one and 18 years later, after the sudden death of an 8 year old daughter from an inoperable brain tumor, ended in a divorce. Fortunately after receiving a large divorce settlement and alimony, she is now in a much happier relationship with a really great guy of her own age.

I wouldn't be in any hurry to advise any high school graduate to take a year off for any reason. The really motivated, success oriented kids, that have their act together know exactly what they want to be and they know what steps they have to take to achieve their goal. For that kind of child I would bend over backwards to help them. You have to be realistic, and even if both you and your wife had successful careers, for a variety of reasons, that doesn't mean that your children will have what it takes to follow in your footsteps. Each generation seems to have a different viewpoint on life from the prededing one.
I am also a great believer in continuity throughout one's formal education, it's important to maintain good study habits and to keep all of the new material you have learned very fresh in your mind.

For those saying the gap year would effect FAFSA -- the point of the gap year is to need FAFSA at all. Obviously this will depend on circumstances, but I did not take out any student loans until my final year of college, and in hindsight that was probably dumb because I only did that so I could buy a new car while still in college.

I did that without taking a gap year to a good state school, although I did manage to save a decent amount during high school, while also working part-time during college and full-time over summer/winter breaks. My parent's contributed minimally so it's

I'd imagine with a gap year (although preferable not to take one) many people could get by without or with minimal loans. This does assume you are fortunate enough to have parent's that are willing/able to let you live rent-free for awhile if need be after turning 18.

Correction my last post, the first sentence should read "the point of the gap year is to *not* need FAFSA at all"

Josh if juniors find a job and FAFSA says Expected Family Contributions (EFC) is $37,642 and college is only $20k how is a gap year where he earns $10k going to help him? It won't. FAFSA will raise EFC wtih junior having saved money.

I filled out FAFSA and know I will not get squat in financial aid but I hope he can get a loan to throw some of the responsibility on him. $5k is my goal because what FAFSA does not know is kid number two is only 2 years away.

Like I stated it is a complicated item an equation with no one answer and many options.

I never understood the kids who didn't have to work during college. I worked all four years and probably would never have been able to save up enough to go to the college I eventually graduated from. Going through community college for the first two years was a big saver, though I hear its gotten more difficult for even community college attendees this year.

To comment from the perspective of someone who took a year off between high school and college, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. While I didn't save a large amount of money (saved about $5000), I learned about living on my own, paying my own bills, and budgeting while living in Banff. The fact that I took a year off to work made my college experience much more enjoyable and allowed me to focus on what I wanted to do before paying money to study (environmental science). I also found that I was lightyears ahead of my peers in terms of work ethic, motivation, and maturity compared to those who came straight from high school. While I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, the idea of taking a gap year is one I would strongly encourage my kids to take.

Very good comments. I really believe it depends on the individual. My older daughter is mature, but the younger one isn't as mature. The younger one might benefit from a gap year so she can see the world as it really is. By the way, someone please find a better way to award scholarships/grants! It's unfair to students whose parents work. Why are we punished for working??? Enjoy your day~

I worked a year before going to college. I had to. My parents were unable to help much and there was no such thing as student loans and Fafsa. I worked the gap year and stayed at home.

However, I was not raised in a family where you could lay around and do nothing. My mother was exceptionally focused on raising us to be good adults and have a good work ethic. I did actually goof because I gave up a job at the shoe factory and went to work in the home office of a big insurance company. I made more money at the shoe factory and could have saved more. Also, I worked while in college from 20-48 hours a week.

My college costs were large to us, at the time. Now they look like a pittance, but I had to work hard to afford to go. Now I can't afford to finish my degree because it costs a fortune to go to college. I'll just go part time and take courses I like. At 74, I doubt if I would even use a degree. I just like to learn.

And, jdgjdg, what is this nonsense about a social distancing? It is one year. My goodness, I went to college with kids from 16 to adults of 65. I went to our church college and it was one of the friendlies places on earth. I was homesick for it when I couldn't go back because I couldn't find work the summer after my sophomore year.

I remember one guy who came out of the service at about 36 years old and was astonished that he was so royally welcomed onto the campus and made loads of life long friends.

And this was a tough school. You were there to learn. You had 3 excused absenses a semester and any more than that, your grade was cut 1/16 for each absence. I was sick the entire 2nd 6 weeks of my last semester and I got a 0 for a grade that period. Average 2 A's and a B on the final and I got a D for the semester. But I learned loads from that class and if I had been able to come back and retake it, it would have been a breeze.

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