Is a gap year a good option for some students?

8 Oct

One Tennessee Study found that quite often kids are encouraged to choose college over vocational or trade options.  The societal push the last few years has been to have more kids go to college. Quite often schools are ranked on the percentage of kids that go directly to college from high school. So, counselors are following cultural cues they have received from administrators, parents, and the media.

Pros and Cons of Going to A Four Year College

A.     Five Reasons to Go to College

Chris Stout lists Top Five Reasons to Go to College

1.The undergraduate degree is the new high school diploma

There was once a time when college was entirely optional. Even today, smart, hard working people can develop  excellent careers and stable

lives without the aid of a university education. College is by no means

mandatory,  but when you’re ready to start building a career for

yourself, you will increasingly discover that a college degree is a

prerequisite  for many entry-level employment opportunities…. 

2.College will satisfy and expand your curiosity

If you possess a general curiosity about how and why the world works the way it does, then you owe it to yourself to attend college. Education is a personal project. If you want to develop your mental faculties and increase your knowledge base, then you have to college. If you feel that you’ve learned all you possibly can in high school, if you think that there’s nothing else that you need to absorb, then don’t go to college. If you have a passion for improved understanding, then college is mandatory.

3.College is a process of continual maturation

College is freedom. When you attend college, you are free to live on your own, according to your own priorities. As you carve out your own custom tailored living and learning experience, you can’t help but grow as a person. College is a time for self-improvement and development, so if you want to grow and mature as an individual, college is the perfect playground for self-progress.

4.College is all about networking

In college, you have the unique ability to create life-long associations in a structured environment. Networking is important, but it can also be difficult. If you want to build relations with students and faculty members, you have to put forth effort. Unlike the real world, in college, it’s easy to combine your individual interests with supportive allies who subscribe to those same interests. Take advantage of this environment and build up relationships that will help you in the future.

5.College exposes you to things you would not normally experience

When you set about choosing your path through life, it’s important to remember that finding yourself is as much a process of elimination as it is a process of discovery. Just as you seek out interests and identities, you need to rule out certain life-options and mental frameworks that you do not agree with. College exposes you to new risks, rewards, people, places, ideas, lifestyles, eating habits and career choices. Exposure is critical. You can’t form a genuine opinion on something if you’ve never been exposed to it.  

  College is a place for you to improve yourself, to satiate your curiosities,   to mature, to network, and to be  exposed to new things. College is an   important, irreplaceable experience in life. Going  to college is highly   recommended.

Stout places the emphasis on the college experience and the fact that college is not just a place for possible career training.

B.    Five Reasons Not to Go to College

Forbes. Com published Five Reasons Not to Go to College

1. You’ll be losing four working years.

There’s an opportunity cost associated with going to college: Not only will you lose the money you’ll have spent on tuition, you’ll also be out the amount of money that you could have made if you’d worked during those four years. And if your family isn’t wealthy enough to pay for your education on their own, you’ll also owe a hefty amount in interest payments for your student loans. Perhaps more importantly, with four years of experience on your resume, you’ll be far better off when looking for work than the average 22-year-old college graduate.

2. You won’t necessarily earn less money.

College grads earn an average 62% more over the course of their careers than high school grads. But economist Robert Reischauer of the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., argues that those numbers are skewed by the fact that smarter kids are more likely to go to college in the first place. In other words, the profitability of higher education is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

3. In fact, you could probably make more money if you invested your tuition.

Put $160,000–the approximate cost of a Harvard education–into municipal bonds that pay a conservative 5%, and you’ll have saved more than $500,000 in 30 years. That’s far more than the average college grad will accumulate in the same amount of time.

4. You don’t need to be in a classroom in order to learn something.

Truly motivated learners can teach themselves almost anything with a couple of books and an Internet connection. Want to learn a hands-on skill or trade? Consider an apprenticeship.

5. Plenty of other people did fine

Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Quentin Tarantino, David Geffen, and Thomas Edison, among others, never graduated from college. Peter Jennings and John D. Rockefeller never finished high school. 

Some people discover their passion earlier in life than others. Forbes.Com addresses its comments at those folks. The calculation is that if one already knows what they want to do, college could be an unnecessary detour.

Economic Value of A College Degree

A US News and World Report article estimated the value of a college degree

As the price of a college degree continues to rise, there’s growing evidence that the monetary payoff isn’t quite as big as often advertised. The best estimate now is that a college degree is worth about $300,000 in today’s dollars—nowhere near the $1 million figure that is often quoted. “That $1 million number has driven me crazy!” says Sandy Baum, a Skidmore economist who studied the value of a college degree for the College Board last year. Baum’s research showed that college graduates earn, on average, about $20,000 a year more than those who finished their educations at high school. Add that up over a 40-year working life and the total differential is about $800,000, she figures. But since much of that bonus is earned many years from now, subtracting out the impact of inflation means that $800,000 in future dollars is worth only about $450,000 in today’s dollars. Then, if you subtract out the cost of a college degree—about $30,000 in tuition and books for students who get no aid and attend public in-state universities—and the money a student could have earned at a job instead of attending school, the real net value in today’s dollars is somewhere in the $300,000 range, a number confirmed by other studies. But, especially these days, that still makes a college degree one of the most lucrative investments a person can make, Baum notes.

Better yet, college graduates can go on to earn advanced degrees, which return even bigger payoffs. The average holder of a bachelor’s degree earns about $51,000 a year, Baum calculates. But those who’ve gone on to earn MBAs, law degrees, or other professional degrees earn about $100,000 a year.

As the price of a college degree continues to rise, there’s growing evidence that the monetary payoff isn’t quite as big as often advertised. The best estimate now is that a college degree is worth about $300,000 in today’s dollars—nowhere near the $1 million figure that is often quoted. 

The article also mentions some of the non-monetary rewards of attending a four year college. The Wall Street Journal in a 2008 article at published at the beginning of the economic downtown describes declining value of a college degree

A variety of economic forces are at work here. Globalization and technology have altered the types of skills that earn workers a premium wage; in many cases, those skills aren’t learned in college classrooms. And compared with previous generations, today’s college graduates are far more likely to be competing against educated immigrants and educated workers employed overseas.

The issue isn’t a lack of economic growth, which was solid for most of the 2000s. Rather, it’s that the fruits of growth are flowing largely to “a relatively small group of people who have a particular set of skills and assets that lots of other people don’t,” says Mr. Bernstein. And that “doesn’t necessarily have that much to do with your education.” In short, a college degree is often necessary, but not sufficient, to get a paycheck that beats inflation.

A college degree is no guarantee of either employment or continued employment.

Alternatives to a Four Year College Degree

Great Schools has a concise overview of various options should a child decide they do not want to go from high school to a four year college. What if Your Teen Wants to Skip College There are several options. Options include a gap year, trade school, vocational school, community college, and for some the military. The only option that should be off the table is to do nothing.

Victor Lukerson has written the excellent Time article, Gap Year: The Growing Appeal of Not Going Right to College:

About 1.2% of first-time college freshmen choose to defer enrollment for a year, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. What these students choose to do with their time varies widely, from expensive study abroad programs, to volunteer programs like City Year, to staying at home and saving up for college.

In 1980, no one was talking gap year,” says Holly Bull, the president of The Center for Interim Programs, a company that offers parents and students consulting in choosing the appropriate gap year program. “I’ve watched this whole concept go basically from its inception to present day. I wouldn’t call it mainstream, but there’s way more awareness and support and colleges are now beginning to endorse it as a really positive thing.”

Whether a person chooses to attend a four year college after high school is a very personal decision and there is no one right answer. One thing the current economic climate has taught many is there are no guarantees in life, even with a college degree. The trades may offer some a means to earn a living and a fulfilling life.

A one-size-fits-all approach does not work.


A publication by the government Why Attend College? Is a good overview

Article in USA Today about gap year

gap year articles

Dr. Wilda says this about that

Blogs by Dr. Wilda:


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2 Responses to “Is a gap year a good option for some students?”


  1. More colleges are putting college applicants on mid-year acceptance for enrollment | drwilda - April 24, 2013

    […] It is difficult for parents and prospective students to decide whether to wait or choose another college. See, Is a ‘gap year’ a good option for some students? […]

  2. drwilda - May 10, 2013

    […] […]

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