Should You Take a Gap Year off Before College? (I wish I had)
|Image courtesy of CollegeDegrees360. Image cropped.|
Recently, I’ve heard a lot about the “gap year” — that question of “Should I take a year off before college?” It’s been a while since I was a high school senior. I’m feeling nostalgic, actually, in response to the 90’s comeback. (For those of you who watch YouTube makeup tutorials, check out the latest, and you’ll see what I mean. The makeup, flannel, grungy hair — it’s all coming back.)
While I can recreate how I dressed and looked in the 90s, I cannot go back almost twenty years to change how I handled my senior year in high school, and I hope that this information is helpful in helping others prevent unnecessary suffering in their lives. If this information had been discussed with me at that time, things might have turned out a little bit differently. But, I do not wish to live in regret. Ultimately, my life did get on course with my education, and yours can, too.
Looking back at my own situation, in the midst of my junior year, I transferred from alternative high school which consisted of only about a hundred co-ed students, all of whom were in residential group homes due to behavioral issues, including me, to public high school. That, in and of itself, was a huge adjustment. With consultation between the staff at my independent living group home and the guidance counselor and principle at my new school, we arranged for me to do half days, leaving before lunch and completing some course work at the community college and some at the group home.
I thrived upon my return to public school. This wasn’t the case before group homes. I was constantly getting into trouble, fights, being truant, etc. I had learned some skills in the alternative setting to help me succeed in the academic environment and with my peers. I was getting better! I was researching colleges and scholarships. I wanted to use college as my ticket out of Massachusetts and into California. I had excellent grades and received awards for excelling in human biology. I had seriously considered going into medicine.
That’s why it was shocking to those around me — the group home staff with whom I had bonded dearly and the administration at my school, when, a couple of months before graduation, I sabotaged it all.
I convinced a friend to run away with me, in the middle of the night on a Greyhound bus from Boston to Seattle. Completely dysregulated with fears related to success (of all things), I subconsciously found a way to ruin it all so that I could be in control, rather than the victim. I could see that only in retrospect and from the wisdom of my adult self who has grown and evolved.
As a result of running away, upon our return we were asked to leave the independent living group home. They said that if we managed to make it to and from Seattle and survive, we had proven we were independent enough. They helped us fly home, and then we had to leave. To be honest, I was SHOCKED. I can still remember that feeling in my solar plexus that I had been turned away from the place I considered home. I was terrified, because I did not have a safe and secure place to go.
I had a break in my high school year due to the move. I stayed temporarily with an alcoholic family member and then ran away, again, to be with a guy I met during the Seattle runaway. He happened to live in California. I got my ticket, but not the one I wanted or needed. This was a huge setback. Even after I managed to complete my high school education, it took me nearly eleven years, on and off, to finally finish my degree. I didn’t get into medicine, but I am proud of the accomplishment of my bachelor’s degree. It symbolized a huge accomplishment in my life. It just took soooooooooooo long to get there.
What if, instead of running away, I had reached out for the support I needed at that critical time in my live — that important milestone? I might have expressed my fears and concerns and then taken a gap year before college to work through the emotional issues I had and become better prepared for the college and work life experience.
Young adults today have Failure to Launch residential programs like that offered at Optimum Performance Institute (OPI) in the Los Angeles area. Had they existed back when I was that age and I were to find out about them (the internet was just born that year, really), I would have seen OPI as my golden ticket to California and my ticket to getting the help and support I truly needed and deserved.
Check out this article by Robert Fischer, MD of OPI on the Gap Year and taking that year off after college to get intensive treatment and support for the transition. I hope you’ll consider taking care of yourself in this way to avoid unnecessary suffering.
What are your thoughts on the gap year? Did you take one? Do you plan on doing so?
Thanks for reading.
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