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Taking Time Off After High School

"What are you doing after high school?" For many teenagers, this question elicits only one possible reply: Going to college. But there are other alternatives. The most common reason why some teenagers consider taking a year off after high school, say high-school counselors, is education fatigue -- the student is simply tired of school. "Those who have struggled with various aspects of high school, whether academic, personal or social, and who are reluctant to explore academic options after high school, are unlikely to have a positive attitude about continuing immediately after graduation," says Joan Jacobson, a counselor at Shawnee Mission South Public High School in Kansas.

She adds "While it is not likely that I would plant the idea of not continuing one's education right after high school, there are students whose case I will support. I would much rather they take a break, either work or travel, and start once they have had an opportunity to see their education in a new light -- not more of the same, but a fresh new opportunity for growth."

Will my child still be interested in going to college?
There are instances, Jacobson maintains, when the teenager wants a year off, but the parents fear that their son or daughter may never go on to college. In such cases, the parents and their son or daughter may want to draw up a plan. "If students can present a sequence of actions that they will pursue in the interim, I find parents are much less likely to balk at the suggestion."

Parents shouldn't fear the prospect of their child losing interest in higher education during the year off, says Bob Gilpin, president of Time Out Associates, a business that matches young people with opportunities during their time off. Based on his experience, the opposite generally occurs: After a year off, students nearly always return to school with a higher level of enthusiasm and a greater sense of purpose. "If this idea shows up on the horizon, the parent should look closely at what the (teenager) has to say," says Gilpin. The alternative -- possibly resulting in the student dropping out of college -- can be a financial and emotional step backward, he adds.



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