Once considered somewhat hedonistic, more and more students and their families are finding that taking a gap year makes sense. In fact, Florida State University recently became the second public university to fund a gap year program for incoming freshman, recognizing the value of students attending college “with a purpose.”
What better way for your student to realize that purpose than through participation in a Career Discovery program?
Incorporating career coaching services into your student’s gap year can help them achieve focus. Then, when they return to an academic environment, it will be with a sense of clarity and enthusiasm.
A Gap Year: More Than a Glorified Vacation
Whether joining the Peace Corp to volunteer in the Pacific Islands or staying at home to work for a year between high school graduation and freshman year of college, a gap year can provide an insightful window into “reality.”
Some students aren’t psychologically prepared for the commitment of college. They attend because it’s the next sequential phase in their prescribed academic journey. But many kids in this age bracket are full of anxiety, unsure of “what they want to be when they grow up.”
And so they go through the motions. They attend the required “general education” courses, and declare majors that sound interesting.
Some fare quite well. Others do not. Among the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2013 who selected a planned major at the time of ACT registration, only 36 percent selected a planned major that is a good fit with their interests, according to the 2013 College Choice Report by ACT. A staggering 32 percent selected a major that is a poor fit with their interests.
Taking time off between high school and college can allow students a sneak peek at the real world through internships, or part-time or full-time employment experiences.
It also allows them time to thoughtfully consider their future so that they can determine their best career path.
It’s Never “Too Early” for Career Coaching Services
Parents often wonder if it’s possible for their child to decide on a career at this age or stage: “How can my 18-year-old possibly know what he wants to do with his life? He can’t even make plans for the weekend without changing them ten times!”
The truth is, aptitudes begin to develop at a very early age. If you observe toddlers — as young as 18 months old — you can witness different ways in which they engage with blocks. Some will sit quietly, arranging them by size or color. Others will stack them in a tall tower, seeing how high they can pile the blocks before the tower topples to the ground.
Even if your child has never held a part-time job, career coaching services can provide insight into their talents, aptitudes, interests and values.
All Good Math Students Should Become Mathematicians — Not!
As humans, we all tend to fall short when it comes to observing ourselves. Students are particularly vulnerable to what other people — especially teachers and parents — tell them about themselves.
Moreover, being good at something doesn’t necessarily translate into the right career fit.
If Ashley has always earned good grades in math class, she may think of herself as a “numbers” person. When she aces the accounting unit in her high school Intro to Business class, and her teacher suggests that accounting might be “the perfect” career fit for her, Ashley might be quick to agree.
The next logical step would be to pursue her college search based on schools with strong accounting programs.
Unfortunately, choosing the right college major — or career — isn’t based on logic alone. And making the wrong decisions can have long-term ramifications.
Aptitude tests can predict — with 80 percent reliability — a person’s innate talents and abilities. Taken under the guidance of a certified career coach, they can be a powerful means for determining a person’s best career fit, at any age.
How About a Gap Semester?
While students typically take a gap year between high school graduation and freshman year of college, there is no hard-and-fast rule governing the timing or length of the academic hiatus.
If you can work out the logistics — particularly housing arrangements — perhaps a “gap semester” might provide an ample amount of time for your student to approach college with an enhanced sense of purpose.
While it might be harder to secure a job for a shorter period of time, many companies offer semester-long internships that can give your student a good idea of what it’s like to work in a particular industry. Coupled with career coaching services, an internship over a gap semester might be enough to provide a renewed focus.
For many students, thinking about the future can be overwhelming. Taking the time to reflect will help them make careful and deliberate choices when it comes to their career and, accordingly, to their college major.
A gap year — or semester — can provide that time and space for exploration.
What benefits has your student experienced from taking a gap year?