This is a very difficult time for our country and the world. Among the most significantly affected are those students about to graduate from high school or those beginning their college search while being unable to visit colleges or speak to other students. Hang in there with me as a wade into why a gap yer may be a great idea for some high school students.
I am concerned about these students for a number of reasons. These are the kids whose stress level has always been very high. They are bombarded by the perceived need to take the most difficult courses, to get almost perfect test scores, and to simultaneously be intricately involved in a series of activities within which they are all expected to achieve leadership roles. Now in their junior or senior year of high school, the uncontrollable monster arrives, and no one has the answer to how to make the world safe.
Can you see how this added stress and inability to control their lives would affect a population that is already stretched to the max? There is no way to convince these young adults that the world will ever be safe for them again, because we don’t believe that ourselves.
Those of us who lived through prior national and international crises see this one differently. Unlike after the 1960s riots, an election will not change the history of race relations. Unlike after 9/11, there is not a visible enemy to fight against. This virus came out of the blue and is taking down the world. Governments do not have the answer. Religious leaders don’t have the answer. Scientists are working diligently to unravel the mystery themselves.
A Class Missing Out
The graduating class of 2020, will not have graduation ceremonies, proms and the normal celebratory trappings of their senior year. Plus, they must decide which admission offers to take without another visit to confirm their choices. They don’t know if they will be taking classes in lecture halls or on their computers. They don’t know if they will be safe on the campus they choose.
The conditions they used to decide which colleges to apply to may have changed significant. In some cases, the family’s finances may have become shaky. In others, going far away from home is no longer as attractive as it may once have been. For others, the family may have endured illness or even death at the hand of Covid-19.
The Class of 2021 is in its Own Quandary
How to they make decisions when the world is upside down? What records will colleges look at more stringently next year than they would have in past years? Will their academic record be valued now that its delivery method has changed? How do activities continue to be meaningful in the era of social distancing? With standardized tests being repeatedly cancelled, will they play any part in the process? For kids who do better with in-person rather than virtual tutoring, how do they get that when they can’t leave their homes?
For both classes, what happens to the students who were hanging on to their mental stability by a thread and now have something to be really anxious about? How do we help them maintain their mental health when they cannot socialize as normal teenagers do?
I suggest that we remove the stress from these kids and offer some alternatives to what they view as life-or-death decisions. Consider a gap year! I am not talking about putting off college forever or backpacking through Europe.
But how about letting these kids take a year where they can get a job and attend college at night or online? Perhaps a different kind of learning in which they intern or volunteer in the type of setting they have chosen as a possible career, to see if that’s the right road for them when they finally do begin college.
In addition to the mental health benefits of a gap year, there’s the added benefit having another year to mature and to make some money to help fund their college educations or to help the family. If they volunteer in the gap year, they are helping others who are less fortunate than they are. There is always someone who is worse off than you are. Make the offer to your kids and let them think about it for a bit before making a decision. You may be surprised at the relief you and they will feel when leaving home is put off for a bit.
If you need help putting together a meaningful plan, call me!