L.J. asks from Birmingham, AL on July 21, 2008
Son and College Plans Are Scaring Me!
Our son is a 17 yr. old rising high school senior and is so very talented and smart (all honors and AP classes). Tonight he dropped a bomb shell on me just at the time I am about to go online and send in his applications for college. He asked me what I thought about him taking a year off after high school to pursue a hobby he dearly loves. He works 2-3 days per week now and maintains a 3.74 average and is in the top 20 of his class each year so he has proven to juggle his time well. He said he will work and pay all his personal expenses for that year but just would love a break. I am so scared and he said he was still open to us talking about it. He promised me that he would definitely get his degree in college and graduate but might love to take a break. What do we do?? My husband, his dad says we can't make him go and I know that's true but I am shedding tears because I'm so scared about what to say to him. If you have any helpful words, please share them with me.
So What Happened?™
I am overwhelmed by the honest replies from fellow mothers. This site is like having an invisible network of best friends that you can go to and ask your questions and get honest answers. HOW WONDERFUL! Thank you to EVERYONE who has responded to my request. Our son is a really great kid and has made wise decisions in his young life. We do have a very open relationship and we talk to each other a ton. I will continue to listen with an open mind and heart to his desires and I'll be there to share my thoughts and advice. I will ultimately try my best to encourage him in the right ways but he is becoming a young man that will have to make the decisions that suit his life the best. Thank you again to everyone for the wonderful advice and support.
L.H. answers from Jonesboro on July 22, 2008
I think taking a year off is good, sometimes. I have two soon to be high school seniors. It isn't a big deal anymore. And he may do better as a result of taking time off from school. I had a year off - not because I wanted to, but because my college of choice had a waiting list... And so I worked and earned money that year.
C.H. answers from Little Rock on July 22, 2008
I took and break and guess what...I never went. I am not complaining because I have a great job that pays well but I hate that I don't have a degree. I can't quit my job now and go make what I make some where else. I wished my parents would have stayed on me. I would maybe suggest taking the summer and fall off then start up with maybe one or two classes in the spring. Or even taking just one class in the fall instead of taking a break. Nothing hard just easy class. Just keep him focused on his dreams and what makes him happy. Best of Luck!!
T.H. answers from Tulsa on July 22, 2008
He just spent 12 years in school. I don't blame him for wanting a break. I would rather my son take a needed break than to go to college and spend the first year partying, etc.
J.M. answers from Jackson on July 22, 2008
He is going to be a senior in high school this year, right? I would have to look at it from a financial point of view as well. Is your family financially secure enough to pay for his college? With his GPA and class rank, it sounds like he could possibly get some scholarships. Once you have graduated though, and take off a year, I don't think you can get any scholarships, but you can get financial aid. Has he thought about taking a few classes at a local community college? That would be easier and he could still pursue his hobby, while not getting too behind in college. Truthfully, freshman year is usually not that difficult. Most students are taking their basics. If he took a light load (4 classes), he would have plenty of time to do his hobby. I lean more toward starting college right after high school. I just think it is harder for students to go back after being out. I'm a 15 year high school teacher and community college teacher, so I have seen most scenarios.
T.S. answers from Montgomery on July 22, 2008
I think your son has proven himself responsible and you have done a great job raising your son. Let him take this year be involved so you have a good chance of stearing him back to college. The fact that he wants to be responsible enough to pay for everything that year will teach him some great life lessons. Also taking the year off now is better then later in life, let him take the chance and the risk now it will be such a great learning experience, even if it fails.
Also there are some great men who never went to college and have made millions just from their drive and passion to succeed. So have him pay you so much a month for his bills and either use it for that or put it away for when he goes to college or gets his first place and help him in this time off phase. If you make him go and he is miserable he could be resentful and quit all together and never end up going back.
K.A. answers from Huntsville on August 21, 2008
How about suggesting he take some/a few easy basic classes at a local junior college while he does his hobby thing. I did that my first year after high school and not only did it keep me in touch with my education and prevent me from wanting to quit altogether (which may be what happens if he gets a taste of the "free world"), it was a nice way to start my more difficult college years. I was an A student in high school but college ain't high school and it hits some kids really hard when they find that out. College isn't for everyone but it should be something that almost everyone tries for a while. I'm sure he's a great kid and you are proud but he can't say he will keep his promise about going to school because he's not had a taste of being an "adult" yet. Freedoom is awesome but will trick you. Make some kind of a deal with him that he can't back out of-even a family "contract" where he "signs" on his promise could work. Good luck and God Bless and be proud of your tears and your worry-they show how much you love your son. Kel
K.H. answers from Tulsa on July 22, 2008
Boy that is tough! I agree though that you can't force him.
I am taking college classes now and I see so many kids that are there because their parents made them go, it is a big waste of money several don't show up for class or spend their class time texting etc. It is better to wait until he is ready. I love that he is open about talking about it though I wonder if he might be interested in just taking a fun class to keep his foot in the door? He could do a junior college and get one out of the way. Good luck! K. H
B.W. answers from Oklahoma City on July 22, 2008
I took a year off myself, between high school and college and then again between college and grad school. I taught at a community college part-time for 10 years when my kids were little and saw plenty of students who were going to college because they were ready after having been forced to go by their parents and then dropping or flunking out. After some time in the real world, they were working hard at succeeding. Your son does need to know that he won't be covered by your medical insurance and will need to get private insurance if he isn't a full time student. It sounds as if he has a pretty level head. You might trust his instincts that he just isn't ready. Also, with so many students waiting to start kindergarten or first grade these days, it is quite common to see 19-year-old college freshmen!
S.K. answers from Birmingham on July 22, 2008
I think your son is truly smart if he has decided to do this. Not just academically smart, but also life smart. You should be proud of him.
Just a couple of days ago, I heard this debate on NPR .... about the 'Gap Year' or 'Bridge Year'. It mentioned that more children are taking a year off before going to college, including those with excellent academic grades. Infact, it was also mentioned that this is the new trend on the rise that most colleges are encouraging, because the students learn life skills and are more responsible, self-suffient and mature when they join back after their break. Princeton University is planning to subsidize tuitions to students who spend a year doing public service.
Here are some links for you to gauge the Gap Year's popularity and possibilities:
A year off can be one of the best investments he can make in his life/education.
Just want to add some ------
Let him explore another country or see a different culture where they work harder to make ends meet, so he comes back with renewed energy and a clarity regarding his future goals.
I have 3 masters degrees and 2 of them were after a break ... I had a more mature perspective and took electives that I am still glad I did.
K.B. answers from Tulsa on July 21, 2008
He sounds like he's very level headed. He's made good grades while working, and even more amazing, he is still keeping his parents in the loop at 17yrs old...I say he deserves a break. Let him take the year, relax a bit, have some fun and he can go back in a year. He's earned it, he's worked hard to maintain his average at school, and frankly, he's old enough to make his own decisions, he's just being thoughtful enough to include you. Thank him but stepping aside and letting him take the break he needs.
Hope that helps.
T.T. answers from Lafayette on July 22, 2008
I think taking a year off is a good thing. They get a taste of "real" life, and have a better appreciation for higher education.
I took time off before starting college. In my case, I just didn't know what I wanted to do. There were so many options. Now, I am a chiropractor, and own my own practice. I appreciated the education so much more than I would have had I not taken the time off.
It sounds like he has a level head on his shoulders, and I would respect his decision.
T. Theriot, D.C.