College, that is. Think about it. It’s huge. Are you ready because your folks are? Are you ready because you’re in a competitive school system where everyone goes? Are all your friends bragging about where they’ve gotten in? How does that feel to you and what does it mean inside your head? For many of you, college has been your next step for years and years. You’ve visited college campuses. You know where you want to go. You have a couple of backup schools. Maybe you don’t know exactly what you want to study but you are excited about the world that is open before you and exploring your options. That’s great!! . You’re a self-starter, have pretty good grades and pack your own bags. Also good. You take good care of yourself physically. Eat healthy, get some exercise and know when it’s time to take a shower. Yikes!! But also good. Importantly, you’re not afraid to ask for help if you are in over your head or come to a confusing fork in the road. In other words, you have a support network or are not afraid to find one. You are ready.
For many of you, this will not be the case. And fortunately, it’s becoming more and more OK for you NOT to be ready. You, too, have options. Importantly, you need to be ready for college inside your own personal head. You know in your heart if you’re not. If you doubt you are ready, then you are not. It will be tough to stand up to parents and friends but, if you have an alternative path in mind, you will be in better shape to make your own argument for delaying college for a year or maybe more.
Gap years are becoming more and more popular in the United States (have been for a long time in Europe) and are no longer considered as slag time for underachievers. Just because you’re not ready for college doesn’t mean you won’t be successful in college and eventually in your field of study. A gap year will give you time to be more well-rounded, know your own mind better and, importantly, be ready to settle down and make the most of your college education. Typically, gap year students travel and see the world. They experience different cultures and take time to mature more and become more of a self-starter and responsible for your own well-being. If you have a good budget or supportive parents with money set aside, this can be an important time for you to consider your future. If money is a problem, there are some scholarships available and some traveling can be done on a shoestring budget. You may also consider an exchange program that allows you to live for a time with a family in another country. We can explore those options in a later blog. Your time after high school is the most likely time you can do this in your lifetime. You have no strings, few obligations and many dreams.
Also unheard of for some in the United States is the economical advantage of going to community college for the first couple of years. I am a huge fan of community college and have seen it turn poorer students or more indecisive minds around and lead them to solid ground. More and more students are considering this option and the original stigma of community college is going away. When you are ready, these hours will transfer to a more prestigious university and that will be the college of your dreams. So, don’t get caught in the competitive college name game so early in your education. Importantly, community college eases you into a college schedule. You can pick your class times to fit your needs or around a job. You don’t have to go to school full time, can go as much or as little as you want and can work your way through. It’s also cheaper in general and will give you a taste of how successful you will be in a university setting. Community college also can be key to your resume or application for a four-year university. Perhaps you didn’t make good grades in high school or went to a highly competitive school with a large student body. Community college shows major university admissions folks that you have the stick-to-it-ness to complete your degree. It also shows you how to do this and do it better than you would if just tossed into the deep end without your sea legs. (Mixing my metaphors there, but you get it.) Finally, you may be needed at home or you may want to stay close to home for your own reasons. That’s honorable stuff. Do it. In any case, chose what’s right for you. The last thing you want is to get into the school of your dreams and find you aren’t quite ready. Save it for when you are.