Taking a Year Off Before College


Published:

Local experts say delaying enrollment can help some students become more focused and ready for the rigors of academic life.

As the mid-year mark draws closer for Charlotte area high school seniors, thousands are making college visits and beginning to fill out applications. But many — to their parents’ chagrin — are dragging their heels.

Some are feeling burned out and can’t imagine four more years of the same. Others don’t see the point, because they have no idea what they want to study and, ultimately, what they want to do with their lives.

The good news is that going straight from high school to college isn’t necessarily the norm these days. More and more students are taking a year off to work, take classes at a local community college and explore career options, travel or do community service work.

Given the cost of college tuition and the statistics surrounding freshman-year failure, experts say a little time to mature and discover some interests isn’t such a bad idea.
Lee Bierer, an independent college counselor and owner of College Admissions Strategies in Charlotte, says the topic of delaying college is being talked about. "I’ve had these conversations with all levels of students ? those who might be interested in attending some of the most highly selective schools and students who are floundering and have not taken high school seriously," notes Bierer, who is the Charlotte Observer’s "Countdown To College" weekly columnist.

Rudy Jackson, owner of Charlotte-based College Prep Professionals and a former assistant professor of education at Davidson College, advises parents that their desire to have their child go to college won’t carry her or him through four years of undergraduate study. "At some point, the child has to have the higher interest (than the parent) in going to college," says Jackson.

But parents often are uneasy about easing up on the pressure and letting their child off the hook for a year. They fear their child will get lazy and remain working a minimum-wage job forever.

Brier admits students might fall off the college track and never get back on, but parents can take steps to help prevent it from happening. Remember, too, she says, that hanging out in front of the television gets old fast, and very few students who delay going to college remain degree-less. In fact, when spring and summer rolls around and their friends are making plans and aren’t at home anymore, college becomes more enticing.

"Maybe they’re saying this fall, ‘I don’t want to go to college,’ but six to nine months in teens’ lives is a long time," says Bierer, noting they may have changed their mind by April when their friends are deciding where to go. "I think students should apply regardless, because they don’t have to end up going anywhere ? they’re just giving themselves more options."

Making the Case for Community College

Yet for students who are not yet ready to handle the rigors of college, Jackson says taking a year or two to ease into college coursework might be the best bet. "You can get your child into college, but your child might not be ready to be successful," whether academically or socially, says Jackson. Parents should ask themselves how much money they are willing to risk.

With the average price at a four-year public university some $10,000 to $15,000 a year and the price at a private college running $25,000 o $50,000 a year, giving a teen time to relax, refocus and get ready to handle college academics makes sense. Here’s more food for thought from the College Board:
Three out of five students who enter a public, four-year college don’t get a degree within five years.
Nearly 30 percent of all students who enter college don’t return for their sophomore year.
The National Association for College Admission Counseling reports that a local community college often is a good stepping-stone to a four-year college.

Both Bierer and Jackson tout community college as a great introduction, saying it is a way to dabble in what higher education is all about and begin to explore careers ? whether medicine, music or psychology ? without making a huge investment up front.

Although many students view community college as the lesser choice, "The community college route is wonderful, and it’s very affordable," says Bierer. "The state colleges and universities really think CP (Central Piedmont Community College) does a wonderful job, and it’s really highly regarded."

"From a financial standpoint, community college is a good way to go," says Jackson. "It’s the less risky investment. You’re not investing as much money for a student to take a year or two just to explore majors or career tracks. At a community college, students get a taste of the academic rigor that’s at the college level."

Gap Year Programs Gaining in Popularity

Taking time off between high school and college is common in Europe and Australia, where teens are encouraged to participate in meaningful experiences for personal exploration before they move to the next life stage of their life.

This gap year concept is catching on in the United States, and gappers are pursuing travel abroad, service work or educational programs. According to the Center for Interim Programs, a gap year consultancy in Princeton, NJ, costs vary widely and can run $10,000 to $20,000 for a year of fee-based programs and living costs.

More and more colleges are supporting the concept of a gap year, because it helps with rentention rates. Harvard has been encouraging students to delay enrollment for years. In fact, the Harvard admissions office Web site features an article, "Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation," written by the admissions staff. It reports that taking a year off makes kids more focused and ready for the rigors of academic life.

In addition, Princeton currently is exploring a bridge year program to allow newly admitted students to volunteer abroad before beginning their freshman year.

Experts recommend students apply to college during their senior year, get accepted and then request a one-year deferral. And, a gap year shouldn’t be just "time off," but instead be crafted with clear goals in mind.

"Colleges aren’t real supportive of an unstructured gap year," says Bierer. "But on the other hand, a gap year plan doesn’t have to be an extremely expensive program in China or Africa. … It has to be a purposeful break. Taking classes or volunteering to find an interest or develop a passion is acceptable. It’s not acceptable to sit home and play video games."

Finally, Bierer suggests parents talk with their teens to find out why they are resistant to applying to college, because the answer most likely will lead to the solution. "Understanding what is holding them back from being motivated about the (college application) process will provide great direction for what the next step should be."

She adds, "There are lots of options," emphasizing parents should avoid trying to put a square peg in a round hole and force a child to go right into a four-year college program. "I applaud parents who say, ‘I’m not sure my child is ready, and we want to explore some other options."

Lee McCracken is an Associate Editor for Charlotte Parent magazine.

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August 2015

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1500 East Garrison Blvd.
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301 N. Tryon St.
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301 Gervais Street, Loading Zone D
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1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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Cost: $5-$8, children 5 and under free

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200 E. 7th St.
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Telephone: 704-333-1887
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Cost: Free.

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Village Park
700 West C Street
Kannapolis, NC  28081
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Telephone: 704-920-4343
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Cost: Free.

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Kannapolis Branch Library
850 Mountain St.
Kannapolis, NC
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Telephone: 704-920-4343
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2412 Beatties Ford Road
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The Schiele Museum
1500 East Garrison Blvd.
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Independence Regional Library
6000 Conference Drive
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Plaza Midwood Public Library
1623 Central Avenue
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551 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC  28202
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Discovery Place
301 N. Tryon St.
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Kenton Place
17115 Kenton Drive
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The Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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Telephone: 704-866-6900
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The Schiele Museum
1500 East Garrison Blvd.
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Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-806-6900
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More information

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South Carolina State Museum
301 Gervais Street, Loading Zone D
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The Schiele Museum
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Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
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Cost: $10-$20, includes museum admission

Where:
South Carolina State Museum
301 Gervais Street, Loading Zone D
Columbia, SC  29214
View map »


Telephone: 803-348-6010
Website »

More information

Visit the Catawba Village to discover how local American Indians used plants, animals, and even the earth itself to provide for tools, clothing, food and shelter. 10am and 2:30pm.

Cost: $6-$10

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 East Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

A continental perspective on wolves today and those that once roamed the Carolina Piedmont. Includes audio and interactive components. Museum hours: Tues., Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $3-$6

Where:
Museum of York county
4621 Mt. Gallant Road
Rock Hill, SC  29732
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Telephone: 803-329-2121
Website »

More information

Examines the long-standing impact of colonialism on prevailing societal attitudes that define black culture in America. Museum Hours: Tues.-Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $7-$9, children under 5 free

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center
551 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC  28202
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Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

Features dynamic interpretive kiosks, hands-on components, and objects on loan from NASA and the Smithsonian Institution. Museum hours:  Mon.-Sat., 9am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $6-$10, includes museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

Learn about the myriad of experiences that the Lebanese-Arab immigrants went through traveling to North Carolina. Museum hours: Mon.-Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., Noon-5pm.

Cost: $5-$8, children 5 and under free

Where:
Levine Museum of the New South
200 E. 7th St.
Charlotte, NC  28202
View map »


Telephone: 704-333-1887
Website »

More information

Explore a gallery of rare instruments, experiment with the science of sound, and rock out with real keyboards, drums and guitars. Museum hours: Mon.-Fri., 9am-4pm; Sat., 10am-6pm; Sun., noon-5pm.

Cost: $12-$15, includes museum admission

Where:
Discovery Place
301 N. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC  28202
View map »


Telephone: 704-372-6261
Website »

More information

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Participate in literacy-related activities including scavenger hunts, hands-on technology use and more.

Cost: Free.

Where:
Beatties Ford Regional Library
2412 Beatties Ford Road
Charlotte, NC
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Telephone: 704-416-3000
Website »

More information

Search for and keep mineral treasures like garnets, topaz, rubies, emeralds and rose quartz in the running water sluice.

Cost: $10-$13, includes museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 East Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

Features a Panthers’ practice capped off with a  fireworks and laser show. Fans will also receive a 2015 team roster photo card with a 2015 schedule. Stadium gates open at 6:30...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bank of America Stadium
800 S. Mint St.
Charlotte, NC  28202
View map »


Website »

More information

Spend your Friday evening watching a feature film, participating in activities and taking in a musical performance. August 7: "Big Hero 6" and Mr. Nigel August 14:...

Cost: Free

Where:
SouthPark Symphony Park
4400 Sharon Road
Charlotte, NC  28211
View map »


Telephone: 704-364-4411
Website »

More information

Music and entertainment before the movies. Movies start at Dusk.

Cost: Free.

Where:
Village Park
700 West C Street
Kannapolis, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-920-4343
Website »

More information

Watch Herself Rising as they blend storytelling and theater to combine the defining moments of each performers personal life. Rated PG-13.

Cost: $20-$30

Where:
"Blumenthal Performing Arts, Booth Playhouse"
130 N. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Discover how early settlers carved a life from the wilderness in the Piedmont of North Carolina in the 18th Century during this outdoor program at the Backcountry Farm. 10am and 2:30pm.

Cost: $6-$9, includes museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 East Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

Explore conditions that make life favorable on our planet and throughout the universe. Discover the diversity of life here even as humans embark on the search for life in the universe....

Cost: $6-$10

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 East Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

Follow the story of Gastonia-based Tony's Ice Cream, enjoy displays of Ice cream production equipment and memorabilia. Museum hours: Mon.-Sat., 9am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $6-$9, includes museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-806-6900
Website »

More information

Examines the long-standing impact of colonialism on prevailing societal attitudes that define black culture in America. Museum Hours: Tues.-Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $7-$9, children under 5 free

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center
551 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC  28202
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

Explore a gallery of rare instruments, experiment with the science of sound, and rock out with real keyboards, drums and guitars. Museum hours: Mon.-Fri., 9am-4pm; Sat., 10am-6pm; Sun., noon-5pm.

Cost: $12-$15, includes museum admission

Where:
Discovery Place
301 N. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC  28202
View map »


Telephone: 704-372-6261
Website »

More information

Participate in Octonauts Training Academy and learn what it takes to become a member of the crew. As cadets, master the specialties of their favorite characters across 6 fun zones, meet Kwazii and...

Cost: Starting at $11.95

Where:
Sea Life Aquarium Charlotte-Concord
8111 Concord Mills Blvd.
Concord, NC  28027
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn about the myriad of experiences that the Lebanese-Arab immigrants went through traveling to North Carolina. Museum hours: Mon.-Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., Noon-5pm.

Cost: $5-$8, children 5 and under free

Where:
Levine Museum of the New South
200 E. 7th St.
Charlotte, NC  28202
View map »


Telephone: 704-333-1887
Website »

More information

Features dynamic interpretive kiosks, hands-on components, and objects on loan from NASA and the Smithsonian Institution. Museum hours:  Mon.-Sat., 9am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $6-$10, includes museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

Using animatronics and interactive technology, this traveling exhibit enlarges and brings to life the hidden world of insects through a variety of robotic creatures 40 to 120 times their size....

Cost: $10-$20, includes museum admission

Where:
South Carolina State Museum
301 Gervais Street, Loading Zone D
Columbia, SC  29214
View map »


Telephone: 803-348-6010
Website »

More information

A continental perspective on wolves today and those that once roamed the Carolina Piedmont. Includes audio and interactive components. Museum hours: Tues., Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $3-$6

Where:
Museum of York county
4621 Mt. Gallant Road
Rock Hill, SC  29732
View map »


Telephone: 803-329-2121
Website »

More information

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Ride in a five-seat plane. See how people get Internet in the rainforest. Voice demonstrations into the JESUS film. Get an up-close look at Bible translation, and why it relies on practical support...

Cost: $5-$20 for activities

Where:
JAARS
7405 JAARS Road
Waxhaw, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-843-6130
Website »

More information

An end of summer celebration packed with fun activities for the whole family including music, food and arts and crafts.

Cost: Free

Where:
Rainbow Child Care Center- Ballantyne
7801 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy.
Charlotte, NC  28277
View map »


Website »

More information

Meet the animals that call the nature center home. Discover snakes, lizards, turtles and a learn a few things about them.

Cost: Free.

Where:
Reedy Creek Nature Center
2900 Rocky River Road
Charlotte, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-432-6459
Website »

More information

Hide your identity using artistic superpower to create the perfect disguise.

Cost: Free.

Where:
Beatties Ford Road Regional Library
2412 Beatties Ford Road
Charlotte, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-416-3000
Website »

More information

Bring your 20-hour summer reading prize and give your sound some style. Use available art supplies to decorate your speakers and make them your own.

Cost: Free.

Where:
Beatties Ford Road Regional Library
2412 Beatties Ford Road
Charlotte, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-416-3000
Website »

More information

Children can enjoy favorite stories, songs, and movement activities that support early literacy skills.

Cost: Free.

Where:
ImaginOn: The Joe and Joan Martin Center
300 E. 7th St.
Charlotte, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-416-4600
Website »

More information

Join the special guest for a fun celebration of books.

Cost: Free.

Where:
Hickory Grove Library
5935 Hickory Grove Road
Charlotte, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-416-4400
Website »

More information

Join a scavenger hunt and find some surprises along the way. Discover what threatened and extinct really mean and how you can help encourage survival amogst these animals. Create your own coloring...

Cost: $3-$5

Where:
Museum of York County
4621 Mt. Gallant Road
Rock Hill, SC
View map »


Telephone: 803-329-2121
Website »

More information

Learn the different ways to start a fire using modern methods and ancient primitive skills.

Cost: Free.

Where:
Reedy Creek Nature Center
2900 Rocky River Road
Charlotte, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-432-6459
Website »

More information

Part of Discovery Places newest exhibition, Guitar: The Instrument That Rocked The World, guests can enjoy a free concert series featuring local artists. From international inspirations of sitar to...

Cost: Free.

Where:
Tryon Street Patio in front of Discovery Place
301 N. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-372-6261
Website »

More information

"Grab a photo beside the massive five-ton machines, meet the drivers and enjoy all the pre-race festivities."

Cost: $10-$25

Where:
The Dirt Track at Charlotte
5555 Concord Pkwy. S
Concord, NC
View map »


Telephone: 800-455-FANS
Website »

More information

A continental perspective on wolves today and those that once roamed the Carolina Piedmont. Includes audio and interactive components. Museum hours: Tues., Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $3-$6

Where:
Museum of York county
4621 Mt. Gallant Road
Rock Hill, SC  29732
View map »


Telephone: 803-329-2121
Website »

More information

Follow the story of Gastonia-based Tony's Ice Cream, enjoy displays of Ice cream production equipment and memorabilia. Museum hours: Mon.-Sat., 9am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $6-$9, includes museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-806-6900
Website »

More information

Using animatronics and interactive technology, this traveling exhibit enlarges and brings to life the hidden world of insects through a variety of robotic creatures 40 to 120 times their size....

Cost: $10-$20, includes museum admission

Where:
South Carolina State Museum
301 Gervais Street, Loading Zone D
Columbia, SC  29214
View map »


Telephone: 803-348-6010
Website »

More information

Participate in Octonauts Training Academy and learn what it takes to become a member of the crew. As cadets, master the specialties of their favorite characters across 6 fun zones, meet Kwazii and...

Cost: Starting at $11.95

Where:
Sea Life Aquarium Charlotte-Concord
8111 Concord Mills Blvd.
Concord, NC  28027
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore conditions that make life favorable on our planet and throughout the universe. Discover the diversity of life here even as humans embark on the search for life in the universe....

Cost: $6-$10

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 East Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

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Education Guide

This comprehensive guide covers preschool, private, charter and public schools in Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union and York counties.

Exceptional Child

Children with special needs face unique challenges. Find resources from A-Z in areas of advocacy, education, camps and therapies to support them as they grow.

GPS [Go. Play. See]

Your guide to raising kids in the Queen City, plus our 2015 Readers' Favorites for places to play, explore and learn with the kids.