by Becky Cooke and Diane Kummer
Gap Year—From High School to
Congratulations to all parents soon
to be graduating their teens from
high school. Our hats are off to you, moms and dads!
RUSHING YOUR TEEN,
ENCOURAGE HER TO
DISCOVER WHAT THE
LORD HAS IN STORE.
Some of your juniors and seniors may have definite plans for the next step, but often, an impending high school graduation brings up the question, “What next?”—especially for students who do not have clear direction for the future. Honestly addressing your teen’s indecision can take some of the pressure off and prevent hasty decisions not in your teen's best interest. One way to approach this is through a “gap year.” Such a year immediately following graduation will give your teen time to gather his thoughts, look into career possibilities, or simply grow and mature. Let’s investigate some available opportunities and benefits a gap year affords.
Taking Time to Mature
Children don’t necessarily mature at the same rate. There are those who are “born old,” while others are “late bloomers.” Usually, those in the former group know what they want to do in life and how to go about doing it. Those in the latter group, however, are often at a loss as to the next step and may feel anxious about it (especially when well-meaning friends and acquaintances continually ask, “What’s next?”).
Instead of rushing your teen, encourage him or her to discover what the Lord has in store. It will save both of you time, money, and anxiety through the following years. God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. (provost of Patrick Henry College), is a good resource to promote meaningful discussions in this regard.
Here for You
HSLDA members may contact our high school coordinators, Becky Cooke and Diane Kummer, for advice on teaching teens. Call 540-338-5600 or visit www.hslda.org/contactstaff.
Check out www.hslda.org/highschool for more helpful information on teaching teens.
Gaining a Year’s Job Experience
Maybe your child needs a year or more to earn money for future prospects. Taking time to work not only provides necessary income but also gives teens new responsibilities and skills that often continue to be profitable throughout their adult lives. The people they meet and work alongside may be used by God to provide advice or direct them into a path not previously considered. See www.hslda.org/resumes for resources to aid in helping your teens create résumés and improve interview skills.
Exploring the Globe
For some teens, seeing the world, or at least a part of it, is their dream. A gap year can provide them the time and opportunity to travel. This may take the form of traveling with family. Or it may be in conjunction with a music tour, an academic tour, visiting missionaries you support, or visiting family members living abroad. There are possibilities to meet every budget.
Remember, if your teen is planning a trip abroad, he will need a current passport. Leave plenty of time to acquire the necessary documentation and any required inoculations. Should your graduate be very adventuresome and wish to travel with other adventurous friends, staying in hostels may reduce travel costs.
Finding Ministry Opportunities
Another possibility for a gap year is participating in short-term missions, which is often more doable during the single years. Taking time after high school for cross-cultural experiences broadens teens’ views of the world and reminds them of the need to share the gospel. Many mission agencies offer opportunities for various lengths of time and encourage young people to participate. We recommend investigating agencies your church supports or mission trips it may be sponsoring.
In addition, Torchbearer Bible School and Saints Bible Institute offer study-abroad opportunities in the context of mission work that may, in some cases, earn college credits. Our website also lists a number of other mission organizations that offer programs for teen involvement.
Pursuing Special Interests
Before launching into college, a career, or the military, your teen can obtain additional training in a particular area of interest. This will help her gain a broader perspective of career possibilities while being strengthened academically and spiritually.
For example, if your teen enjoys learning languages and wants to become fluent in one, this year would be a good time to delve into this pursuit. It may be as simple as working with a native speaker in the community or possibly participating in an immersion program.
On the other hand, if emergency preparedness is what rings his bell, then have your teen check out such programs as ALERT Academy. Maybe a year taking interesting classes while being involved in challenging volunteer activities will transition your graduate to the next step. In this regard, Impact 360 or other similar programs would be worth considering.
Check out Our Resources!
We’ve provided only a sampling of the many opportunities available to your teens. For more information or for additional ideas, check out resources and books on the subject, many of which are referenced on our website. Also visit the College Board website or the National Association for College Admissions Counseling website for information on how colleges view a gap year.
Homeschooling families whose teens benefited from a gap year are another reliable source for help. Don't hesitate to ask about their experiences and seek their advice and suggestions.
Remember that a gap year is a year to further the development of your graduate, not an excuse to escape from studying or being engaged in worthwhile endeavors! If you think a year of transition would be beneficial for your teen, know that the Lord will bring just the right solution to you.
| About the authors|
Becky Cooke and Diane Kummer are HSLDA’s high school coordinators.