Gap Year Ideas Needed

Updated on December 31, 2018
S.C. asks from Tampa, FL
10 answers

My son and daughter are burnt out after taking advanced classes. I have no problem with gap year but the college wants them to get accepted then defer. They then want an explanation of what their plans are for the year. Is it not ok just to work a job?

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Pittsburgh on

My husband took time off between high school and college and would tell them NOT to do it. That's probably his biggest regret in life.

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Boston on

Kids who burn out in high school are going to need more than just a year off to handle the rigors of a competitive college. I'm not sure why a college they haven't applied to is in on the decision though. Most colleges don't weigh in on kids who haven't applied and haven't been accepted.

I think your kids ought to reassess their choices so far, and look into less competitive colleges. Colleges aren't going to hold a space for kids who aren't committed to attending and who can't make a plan for one year, let alone 4. Is there a reason they are looking at the same college? Maybe it's not the best choice for both of them, let alone one of them.

Not enough info here to make more of a judgment.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

This is something your kids need to work out for themselves.
They should talk with their guidance counselors about it.
Working a job is not necessarily what college is looking for unless they are joining the Peace Corp or doing some sort of social service to add to their academic resume.
They need to think about doing something that makes them more desirable for the college to accept.
Competition is fierce.

While I understand being burnt out - they might want to think about how difficult it would be to get back into it again after a year off.
A gap year is not always a good idea for everyone.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Is the college not accepting work as a legitimate plan? I've known a few kids who took gap years and they absolutely worked during that time. What do the admissions people have to say about it?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I think a gap year is ok. The problem arises when the teen begins to think that a year off also includes a year off from personal responsibility and growth, accountability, staying employed, staying out of any legal or financial trouble, etc. It's not a year off from life, it's a year off from the school environment.

If your kids need a break, that's understandable. But they should have a personal plan for growth and learning during that gap year. The learning doesn't have to mean keeping up with algebra or English composition or physics, and doing homework. But it can involve learning how to be a good employee, which as many adults know means more than just showing up to work. And learning can involve taking a course in something they know they will have a lifelong interest in, and possibly a career someday. Or it might mean doing something they like, such as volunteering at an animal shelter or fostering dogs, even if they don't plan to become a veterinarian ever. Sometimes, they need a chance to just breathe.

Or, the gap year can enrich their future plans, if they know what those plans are. Say your son wants to become an accountant someday, or financial planner. During his gap year, he could take a tax course offered by the national tax preparation companies. There are places that offer basic adult education in many cities; they teach reading, resume writing, basic money skills like checkbook balancing or how to open a bank account, etc. Your son could volunteer there. Or he can tutor kids in math.

Say your daughter is interested in science, maybe space exploration. She can volunteer as a docent at a science museum, or take a class at a community college in astronomy. She can tutor, or take a job as some kind of assistant at a research laboratory.

Their gap year may reveal things to them about themselves and their future plans. I don't see why they need to box themselves in to a particular college right now. What's most important is that they grow (mentally, emotionally, spiritually) during that gap year.

My son also had had enough of demanding classes when he graduated from high school. His "gap year" was quite loosely structured. He tried a community college and hated it from day 1, after he was assigned his core classes. He told me that it was the exact same stuff as what he had just finished doing for four years, and he knew it wasn't for him, and he dropped out immediately (so no financial or educational consequences). He got a couple of basic jobs (delivering or making pizzas, etc, just stuff to fill the time and make enough money for expenses). And during that year he gave a lot of thought to his future. His job performance was good, he stayed out of trouble, and at the end of that year he had an idea of how he wanted to proceed in life. He applied to a highly technical and very demanding college, and from the first hour, he KNEW he belonged there. He graduated with a nearly perfect GPA, and today he is a sought-after professional in his technical career (audio engineering). I don't regret that he took that year to think things over and assess his own strengths and hopes. His gap year certainly didn't look impressive on paper, but it was a time of soul-searching and thinking, and when he was ready that next fall, he was determined, rested, and eager to start on his path.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

If I am understanding your question correctly, the "problem" is that your children are going through the college application process now but they do not want to go to college now. They want to take a year off and maybe look for a job during that time, but they do not have jobs lined up to tell a college about. And you feel like there is no good way for them to tell a college "I just want to take a year off, I have nothing specific arranged for the year yet".

I think the issue that you are facing is - there is a difference between "not going to college immediately after high school" and "doing a gap year".

You write: "the college wants them to get accepted then defer" with "plans". Yes, that is the definition of a "gap year".

But, maybe your children should not be applying to college right now - maybe they do not need to even worry about a "gap year" - maybe your children should just graduate from high school and then apply to college in a year or in a few years, when they are ready. That way, they will not have to tell any college about "plans" right now, they can just tell colleges what they ended up doing whenever they eventually apply.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

One of my nieces did this - but she traveled and did it through a program I think. She did it before her graduate program. She worked on farms, etc. and met wonderful people. Then she also had money to do a bit of travel at the end.

I think you can also volunteer through programs.

I would have your kids talk to their guidance counselors. Even if it's not through a program, having certain experiences would likely help still make them more attractive to colleges.

I think gap years sound like a great thing - so long as they don't just lose focus.

We know kids who weren't ready for college, work and live at home to raise some funds, and while that's fine (better than wasting time and money in a program that's not what they want to do or they aren't mature enough to handle it), sometimes they don't ever want to go back to school.

So having some kind of plan, keeps them focused. That's what a guidance counselor can hopefully help them with - or at least point them (and you) in the right direction. There must be some websites and info to check out. Good luck :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

Instead of taking a year off I recommend they take somewhat easy classes. Forget the math and science for a year and take a few other required classes such as social studies or maybe a P.E. class and a music, theater, or art class. Unless math and science are easy classes for them. This way they do not lose their study habits and are getting college credit. Students have to take a lot of classes in social studies - humanities - art so they are working toward their degree just doing it a little backward.
I went to a 2 years college for my first 2 years of college, the only biology class offered included dissecting a cat -- ummm no not doing that. I waited until I got to my 4 year campus to take biology.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My daughter hated high school and wanted to graduate a year early, but was not ready to start college. My husband I were very leery of her taking a year off so we made an appointment with her school counselor and her. We set up very specific things that she had to do if she wanted the year off: 1) get a job, 2) take a couple of courses at the community college, 3) join a good youth symphony (she is a bass player and wants to play in a professional orchestra when she "grows up"), 4) look into colleges over her Junior (last) year in school, 5) apply for and audition for those schools during her year off.

After the meeting, we felt much better about her gap year, but still not sure if she would follow through. She did and, I think, that it has been a very good experience for her. Also, she did not have the pressure of taking hard classes at the same time she was applying for colleges.

My advice, meet with your child and the school counselor and come up with a plan that works for your family and your kids.The counselor knows what Universities want and can help guide you. And, the to do list is much better coming from "not the parent" because, what do we know? :)

Good luck. I hope your gap year works as well as ours is.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

It is not up to you to fill their gap year, it is the person who is taking it who needs to make choices. It sounds to me that they don’t want to go to college but have no other plans. What you need to do right away is let them know clearly that you are not supporting them during a year of no plans. They will need to figure out how to pay for their own expenses if they choose to not go to college. That’s what I did with mine. If they went to college I subsidized what they needed after a work study job. No school meant they had to pay for everything. That included car and medical insurance.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions