Students can save money (and sanity) in a gap year

Lauren Williams's picture
Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The gap year — in which college-bound students delay matriculation in favor of travel or community service — twinkles winsomely among choices offered high-school seniors after tossing their caps. But, curiously, not many choose it. This may be good for schools needing the tuition, but it’s bad for the people who pay it, as well as students who would benefit from the psychic oxygen a gap year provides.

In my daughter’s recent high-school graduating class of more than 200, only two students were “gappers.” Nationwide, fewer than 2 percent of college-bound students ring the bell and disembark the education train, even though a gap year is a reasonable and pleasurable rejoinder to the vexing questions raised by higher education today.

The questions are these: What is our child’s major? How will we pay? Will four years in college (or, horrifyingly, five, six, or seven) matter when it comes time to find a job? Will Junior learn anything that he can’t learn on MIT’s Open Courseware for free? Wouldn’t we really rather have an Audi TT?

These are the dilemmas that try parents’ souls (and empty their bank accounts). And these are the dilemmas that a gap year can solve, giving parents an extra year to fortify their Coverdell ESAs, and make peace with their Chevys, while their children shed the downy fluff of adolescence that impedes wise decision-making.

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