With the dreaded exam season coming to an end, a lot of us can heave a sigh of relief and hope for the best. But for twelfth graders, the stress has just begun. “When’s the college essay due?”, “Have you tried applying here?”, “Do you think you’ll get in?”, “What if I don’t get into a college?”. And, not to mention, if they realise they chose the wrong path later in the future, all of this struggle would be for naught. At this important juncture of your life, what can you do to make a confident decision?
Why is a gap year important? ( WATCH VIDEO )
The decision you make as to what you want to do after the 12th grade can easily command what your life is going to be like for a minimum of 25-35 years, if not more, which essentially means you lose almost 40-45% of your life, at the very least, if you choose the wrong path. This could very well lead to what approximately 70-80% of employees, who are dissatisfied with their jobs, go through. As a lot of research points out, discontentment within people’s job life affects other aspects of their life, as well, which could result in:
- Emotional Stress
- Low Immunity
- Family Problems
- Social Anxiety
- Substance Abuse
- Suicidal Tendencies
According to Gallup – an American research-based company – about 51% of American people regret their college degree choices. This shows that making the wrong choice after high school isn’t uncommon. A lot of factors contribute to this aspect:
- Social Dependencies: A lot of teenagers tend to take a course based off what their friends decide to take up to avoid having to move away from them.
- Lack of Opinion: Most teenagers haven’t yet figured out what course they would like to pursue or may have multiple options of which they don’t know which to choose.
- Lack of Confidence: Few teenagers may not be ready to put in the effort required in college.
- Family Pressure: Some teenagers lack a choice of their own due to family members compelling them into a course which they deem suitable rather than taking the student’s interest into account.
- Peer Pressure: Teenagers feel the need to jump into a “rat race” in the hunt for a college because most of their friends had already begun to do so.
- External Stress: College hunting and admission processes usually happen during the teenager’s mock/final exam time which, in the stress of balancing multiple tasks, can cause error in the decision-making steps.
Each of these have individual solutions to solve the issue which could result in the right decision to be made and, thus, ensure a happy and content future. However, the main reason why these do not take place is because of a sense of the lack of time. In the hurry to not “waste” time and join a college, teenagers often ignore the basic analysis of whether they are ready for the requirements of college or not. But, then again, most teenagers do not know what to expect in college as it is a completely new experience to them. This is where, I feel, a parent’s support is critical.
What can parents, do?
Parents are a role model for their kids. Their words and behaviours may not be followed or reciprocated but they will always stick within the child’s brain. In other words, your words and actions are valued by your child, whether they realise it or not. Therefore, your support is key in making your teenager feel a sense of confidence and ease at this time where they tend to lack a sense of both.
1. As a parent, you know your child best and, thus, you are the right person to analyse them. Therefore, the first step is to figure out whether your teenager actually requires a gap year or not.
Not everyone needs a gap year. A student who is mentally, physically and socially balanced and has a clear and practical idea on how to achieve their goals without the need for a break does not require time off the conventional educational system. But the fact of the matter is teenagers, at this age, can seldom be classified under those standards. Thus, the first requirement is not to check if your teenager matches the above criteria but to spot in which of those fields does your teenager lack in, by interacting with them and understanding what their plans and interests are. This helps you organize your teenager’s goals for the upcoming gap year.
2. The second step is to propose and convince the idea of a gap year to your teenager (that is, assuming your teenager did not approach you with this plan before you approached them)
This step is the most important step in the process because it is here that you will have to make your teenager realise why this time is required and, very slyly but impactfully, make them understand that this isn’t a holiday to relax. Presenting your proposal in terms of points and encouraging them to talk to their friends and people who have been through this experience are methods more likely to succeed in getting your teenager onboard. Ideally, your teenager needs to understand that the time they take off from the educational system will have them explore various fields of their interest by doing multiple projects in order to understand the practical aspect of it better and will give them an ample amount of time to decide their career path, perform college formalities and explore hobbies and /or passions.
3. The final step is to support your teenager by helping them find workshops, internships and seminars related to their interests and places for them to volunteer or work part-time.
Encouraging your teenager to mingle with groups of people that share similar interests can instil a sense of passion to learn and explore within their field of interest. This is an ideal mindset to possess and bringing this about can enhance your teenager’s performance, at college or work. Moreover, volunteering or working part-time helps improve oneself. Volunteering to help those who need it can build a sense of compassion and kindness within your teenager followed by organizing and team-work skills while a part-time job can give your teenager a taste of how the world around them works.
To summarize, a gap year is basically the necessary amount of time to take an informed decision as to what your child wants to pursue so that they will always love their Mondays and to make sure your child can confidently face any challenges they would face at college or from the outside world. If these points are attained, you can rest assured that your child will be able to achieve anything that they desire. As said by Brian Tracy, an American-Canadian motivational speaker, a quote that I feel captures the epitome of what I desire to convey:
“If you raise your children to feel that they can accomplish any goal or task they decide upon, you will have succeeded as a parent and you will have given your children the greatest of all blessings.”
Student of Music, Innovator and Explorer