Tag Archives: student life

The Gap Year: an option prior to college

It’s become known as, “Gap Year,” and it’s a rapidly growing trend among graduating high school seniors in the U.S. prior to entering college.

For an increasing number of graduating high school seniors, a Gap Year may be a viable option.

What should you do if, after graduating from high school, you feel you are not quite ready to enroll in college?  Maybe you have no idea what you want to study or maybe you want to serve in a local or national service community project?

Maybe you have been accepted to your first-choice school but you want to defer for a year?  Is there an option?  There is and it is called taking a Gap Year.

Gap YearTaking a year off before beginning university studies is fairly typical in many parts of the world and is generally followed by students in the United Kingdom.

When I was working in Downtown Boston I often observed, in the early morning, students in red jackets doing calisthenics. They were members of City Yeara Boston-based organization that allowed students to work for one year in community-based projects. The students earned money and gained valuable work experience.

AmeriCorps allows high school graduates to do the same while helping the country to meet its health, environmental and educational needs.

Graduates of AmeriCorps and City Year, receive financial aid that can be applied to meet their future college costs.

There are hundreds of Gap Year programs for you to investigate either at the local or national level.

What should you do if you think you may want to take a year “off” before beginning your college studies?

  • Have a clear idea of why you want to do this and some idea of how you would like to spend the year between high school and college.
  • Discuss with your parents.  Everyone needs to sign off on this.
  • Find out if the school(s) who accepted you will defer admission for a year.  Get the answer in writing.
  • Please know there is nothing wrong or peculiar about taking a Gap Year.  But you need to know why and have a plan.

Useful tools for selecting colleges and universities

Some students have little difficulty selecting the next step in education: colleges and universities.

Legacies, specific fields of desired study, perhaps even acquired preferences often play large roles in narrowing the choices for higher education.

But for many other students – and parents – the selection is not always so easy.  That is normal and natural, too.

International StudentsIf you’re at the beginning, middle or even at the end of your college search, the following tools may be of assistance:

  • Read my book,The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job.  This book will help you to ask the right questions before you even file one application.
  • The College Navigator provides lots of useful information on colleges and universities.
  • The College Scorecard gives families comparative information on colleges and universities.
  • The Shopping Sheet gives families a standardized financial aid form.
  • Net Price Calculators must be posted on all colleges and universities awarded federal financial aid funds. This gives the college applicant information on what the family is likely to pay if enrolled.
  • Salary Surfer is a California community college website that details how much money students earned before and after completing an associate’s degree or certificate program in the California system.

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has produced a report on the investigations involving for-profit colleges.  Under investigation are: Corinthian, DeVry, ITT and Education Management Corporation.  Be very careful before applying to for-profit schools. There are many other choices available.

Sometime this year the U.S. Department of Education will produce a ratings system of all U.S. colleges and universities. The system will measure outcomes, like graduation rates and employment at graduation.

Stay tuned.

College graduates earn more; the cost of not going to college

Most families worry about the cost of college, student and parent debt and getting a good job after graduation.  

But have you ever considered the costs of not going to college? The Pew Research Center, published a report in October, 2013, comparing 2,000 Millennials, (adults aged 25 to 32), with college degrees and those with high school diplomas. This is what the research found:

  • College graduates will earn about $17,500 more a year than adults with just a high school diploma.
  • Millennials with a high school diploma can expect to earn 62% of what a typical college graduate earns.
  • College graduates are less likely to be unemployed – 3.8% vs.12.2%.
  • 90% of college graduates say their college degree has already paid off.
  • 22% of high school graduates are living in poverty, compared with 6% of college graduates.

MillennialsCollege graduates were asked what they would have done differently in college. Here is what they shared with the researchers:

  • Would have gained more employment experience while in school.
  • Would have started looking for a job sooner than or picked a different major.
  • Would have studied harder.

Whenever you feel discouraged or feel that college is not worth the investment of time and money, review these statistics.

Get Employment Statistics!

Few colleges and universities readily distribute the employment statistics of recent graduates for a simple reason: they do not have this information.  

That will not do for anyone reading this blog.

In the March 17th issue of the Wall Street Journal,   Melissa Korn, a writer for the paper, raises the issue of employment at graduation and reinforces my belief that colleges and universities should do more to help students find suitable employment at graduation.

college graduationMs. Korn writes about College Measures, a partnership between the American Institutes for Research and Matrix Knowledge.  This partnership can give students employment information in several states, including Texas, Virginia and Florida.

They created a website to make this information available to interested families.

Don’t forget to stop by the alumni office if you cannot get employment information from the admission or career counseling offices.  Alumni can be a useful source of information on internships or even offer entry level jobs to recent graduates.

Be your own advocate.