Should You Take a Year Off Before Starting College?

Jonathan Glater of the New York Times floats the idea, and although I don’t agree with his primary reasoning (there may be more federal financial aid available due to new Obama proposals…or maybe not), I think it’s an idea worth considering.

Glater cites proposed new policies that would increase some grants by a few hundred bucks and available loans by a few thousand. If you’re right on the bubble of being able to pay for college or not, then these proposed differences may make the difference for you.

(Side note: I keep emphasizing the “proposed” part, because we’re talking about politicians here, the most reliably unreliable people in our society. Politicians are professional panderers whose job involves consistently lying to large numbers of their employers, the voters. Never assume they’ll keep their promises.)

That aside, I like the idea of high school grads taking a year off before heading off to college. I wish I’d done it, but I was one of those many millions of students who were in a desperate hurry to plunge headlong into the workforce by age 22. I’m now 35 and realize what a foolish hurry that was; believe me, there’s plenty of time for you to wage-slave in the real world, and if you’re able to take a year off while you’re young, strong, attractive and healthy, then by all means, knock it out of the park. Have fun. Send me a postcard.

Ask anyone over 30 if they wish they could have one free year to casually work, learn, explore, dabble, sample life’s pleasures at his/her own pace. Look closely into their eyes, and you may actually see them begin to weep internally at the pure joy of such a notion. The older the person you ask, the more intense the weeping. Don’t stand too close to these people, lest they grab your leg and beg you to take them along.

If you’re not interested, don’t sweat it. Besides, you can always take a year off later during college, or after college, if you so choose. Maybe you’ll have a bit more cash in your pocket then anyway, so you can enjoy your travels on an airplane instead of a Greyhound bus.

But my best advice on the subject is this: Slow down. Don’t be in such a huge hurry. Enjoy yourself while you can. The world will still be here when you get back.

🙂 Josh

3 thoughts on “Should You Take a Year Off Before Starting College?”

  1. I am one of those folks who took a year off between high school and college. It gave me time to really consider whether the school I had applied to was the best fit for me (it wasn’t). I also had a chance to take a full-time job and to vounteer that year before committing my time to a specific area of study. Those work opportunities really helped inform my future decisions about choosing my major and career. When I did graduate at age 23, many of my fellow graduates were the same age or older. In the job market and in life, one year makes no difference at all.

    There are some social challenges, though. If your high school classmates leave the area for college, you’ll need to find some new social support networks for that one year off. As well, when reunions, both formal and informal come around, you won’t be on the same footing as your friends who went straight to college. But this is ok. Missing my 5-year high school reunion for college finals was well worth it in the greater scope of my life.

  2. Haha, “reliably unreliable”.
    I have to say, I debated taking a year off for awhile. However, I realized that it wasn’t worth it for me. While I will say that I am a little naive and I don’t know what the “real world” is like yet, I don’t think that taking a year off will help me discover it any faster. If I did, I’d be stuck in this same house, with the same job I’ve had for 3 years now. Going to University is a change for me, to be on my own and to mature into adulthood (I’m not saying that I’m going to turn into an adult after the first year, I just mean I’m going to learn from my mistakes and ecetera). Also universities offer scholarships to students who are coming fresh from high school. It’s for their advantage in the end, but to start with it helps me pay for university, while still letting me work part time while studying so I can in addition pay for university fees. Plus I’m the youngest and like Glater suggests, “By waiting, those with younger siblings may save their families money because more financial aid is available” so I really have no motivation from that point. In addition from the NY Times article, I’m the only one paying for my education – my parent’s income has no relevance to my university fees. [I really appreciate your point of view on this subject because you mention all sides of the story and you add your personal opinion and show it throughout your article. Your style of writing also catches my eye (sarcasm makes the world go ’round).]
    I wish however, that universities would offer specific scholarships for students who take a year off. Sometimes people don’t know what they want to do, and need a another year to figure it out. Other situations can arise where students can’t afford it or a friend might’ve stabbed them in the eye with a pair of tweezers, forcing them to take a year off – basically millons of events or situations could have occured to make this person decide to take the year off. They shouldn’t be punished for waiting – they should be offered the same opportunities as first year students that graduated high school the same year. While we don’t have to write essays to gain an entrance scholarship, I think a person who took a year off who would like the scholarship wouldn’t mind explaining in an essay why they took a year off and what they did during such time (proof may be required, but if all points are valid – then getting it won’t be hard getting it, right?). All I’m saying is that taking a year off for most high school students seems like an absurd idea – mainly because of finances and because it’s the social norm. Change one thing and maybe the norm will change as well.
    Thank you for bringing this subject up. 🙂

  3. Counselor Buddy

    As a high school counselor, I find that most students who take a year off before college rarely end up going back to school, at least not following the time-line they envisioned. A majority of the those students find a job, begin acquiring bills (debt), then have a hard time figuring out how to cut back in work hours, still pay their bills and make time for school. If a student wishes to take a year off to enjoy life before entering the workforce, I would advocate taking that year off after college. Food for thought…

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