Sunday, September 03, 2006

School 2.0: Life After High School

I ran across a very interesting article that reports on a growing trend. More and more high school graduates are taking off a year from school before entering college and working, volunteering, and traveling.

In previous posts I've suggested that the second semester of High School be transformed into a similar experience, eliminating some of the senioritis, allowing students to work and save for college, and enriching the job and volunteer pool of talent that the local community can draw from.

Here's an interesting passage from the longer article.

How to Become a World Citizen, Before Going to College - New York Times

Many of this year’s high school graduates are now settling into college dorms, but an increasing number of middle-class students, like Ms. Sullivan, are opting to take a gap year before or during college. Such a transition was once considered the province of the well heeled, but many students of various financial backgrounds now pay all or part of the cost. And as college costs soar, more families see the moves as good investments, because their children often return more focused.

As it is, many freshmen don’t stay in college for long. “About 30 percent of freshmen don’t see sophomore year. It’s like World War I trench warfare,” said Brian R. Hopewell, a college consultant on Cape Cod. “That’s the dirty little secret many don’t take into account.”

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics indicates that only 35 percent of students graduate in four years. Many take as long as five or six.

“Parents are thinking twice before writing hefty tuition checks,” said Holly Bull, president of the Center for Interim Programs, in Princeton, N.J., which helps students plan gap years. Despite increased pressure to have their children attend good colleges, many boomer-generation parents seem more open to gap-year options than their predecessors were.

It makes economic sense for students to explore their interests before college, advocates of gap years say; freshmen who do so are less likely to party too much, fail courses or change majors repeatedly — all of which can result in more time needed to graduate, and more expense.

And gap years can help build résumés: students who are interested in medicine have more contact with patients volunteering in clinics in Costa Rica, for example, than they can in the United States, Ms. Bull said. And, on various foreign trips, they can attain a level of fluency in a new language.

Many students learn valuable life skills by earning and handling money during gap years, said Gail Reardon, founding director of Taking Off, a Boston consulting firm that also helps students plan gap years.

“One mother said to me: ‘I don’t know what you did to her, but before she wouldn’t use an A.T.M. Now she’ll go anywhere, often taking the cheapest way to get place to place,’ ” Ms. Reardon said. “We spoon-feed our kids and they don’t develop any sense that they can do things. And once they do it, it changes everything.”

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