Kids Should Take a Year On
After two drop-out years selling fish off a truck, I returned to college much more motivated, and with a better sense of what I wanted to accomplish there. So I was inclined to approve when I came across a news story with a lede explaining that “more educators are advocating a year off between high school and college to explore options and interests. Frankly, however, I think teenagers would be better served by a year exploring realities than participating in expensive programs such as this:
Longtime educator Karl Haigler, co-author of The Gap-Year Advantage, agrees. “We think that there should be more of a focus on success in college, not just on access to college,” he says. That’s partly what motivated Princeton University to become the first school to formalize a gap- or bridge-year program. It will be launched in the fall of 2009, starting with 20 students and growing to 100. Students will be invited to apply after they have been accepted to the school. The program will send students for a year of social service work in a foreign country. Students won’t be charged tuition and will be eligible for financial aid.
Formal gap-year programs typically cost between $10,000 to $20,000, including living expenses, says Ms. Bull. Students can often apply for financial aid through Free Application for Federal Student Aid (www.fafsa.ed.gov), or look for scholarships and individual study-abroad loans through specific programs. There are also community-based programs, like Americorps, where students receive room and board in exchange for service work and a small stipend.
That strikes me as one part “study abroad” and one part nonprofit labor scheme. What the modern youth needs more than vacations for the conscientious is a year on — a year of attempting to be self-supporting and truly independent from the watchful eyes of professional supervisors and sponsors.