More High School Seniors May Delay College

More High School Seniors May Delay College

By Staff

March 16, 2009

Some news outlets are noting that the economic downturn might provide the opportune time for high school seniors to delay college for a year.

The New York Times reports that President Obama's federal college aid plan, if approved, does not take effect until July 2010, providing students with the opportunity to take a year off before returning to school to take advantage of the increased aid. If high school graduates can work for a year, notes The Times, perhaps they can help save for their educational expenses next year.

Patrice Lawless, a high school junior, writes in Syracuse's The Post-Standard that a "gap year" ' a year off between high school and college ' can provide a much-needed break from school and an opportunity to gain valuable experience. "While the gap year is stereotyped as the option for teenagers who feel unprepared and unready to attend a university," she said, "its true purpose is to provide students with a chance to broaden their horizons and mature into adults."

Students who take advantage of the gap year can volunteer for organizations such as AmeriCorps and City Year, building low-income houses and working with children as tutors or mentors. Moreover, The Wall Street Journal notes that Princeton University will be launching a formal gap year program this fall, which will send students for a year of social service working in a foreign country.

Maureen Downey in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution remarks that given the opportunity, she would have taken a year off from college to work in a service project or political campaign. Downey's daughter took a year off to work for Barack Obama ' then a longshot candidate ' and eventually changed her major from business to political science as a result of the experience.

"We ought to stop treating gaps in education and resumes as liabilities and see them as opportunities to learn something about ourselves and the world," Downey writes.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of high school students do not wish to put off college. "I haven't had many students in my career do that, simply because it's not part of the norm," said Robert E. Bardwell, director of guidance at Monson High School in Massachusetts, who was quoted in The Times. "Many of them, especially the higher achieving students, are eager to get into college so that they can get done sooner."

Bardwell noted that he had stopped inviting gap year programs to make presentations because there had been so little interest.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports that in Iowa City schools, guidance counselors said they knew of only a small handful of students who decided to wait. One counselor suggested that the low number of gap year participants could be attributed to the influence of living close to a major university such as the University of Iowa.

Yet that trend could change. The Times notes that it is hard to see a downside to taking a year off. "If ever there was a time that youthful enthusiasm, energy and creativity might be needed out in the real world," the article says, "this could be it."

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