Choices to make: Graduate, PG Year, Gap Year….
What to do, and should I keep on taking the standardized admissions tests?
So now is the time for seniors to really hunker down, do your applications, and finish up taking those darned ACT or SAT tests. Well, as many are considering the options, some are starting to seriously challenge the traditional path ahead to college for a variety of reasons. Now, more than at any other time that I can recall in recent decades, the options to not take the traditional route have become more acceptable than ever.
There was a time when taking time off was a challenge for students. Many have to for financial reasons. Many, in recent years, were advised to take a PG year for the optimum athletic recruitment to the college they truly wanted. And recently the Gap year has gained in popularity, especially since the former President’s daughter opted to do so. At some point colleges eyed such choices differently, but today, colleges are very accommodating to many options for students to delay starting directly from high school into college.
In fact, there are many colleges who offer first semester abroad, with some serious conditions regarding grade point and so forth, to provide both greater options, and also get a break with housing challenges. Some colleges provide a semester early abroad because housing is a challenge, but by second semester transfers happen, people choose to leave college, and other such events happen that free up some bed space and those sent abroad can come back with assured placement.
Other colleges recognize the need for some students to get a break from strictly academic rigor and offer a first year of leadership challenges, typically broken into three segments (trimesters), which afford opportunities for service, work, and travel before starting into college. These programs are usually required as an Early Decision option as the college only offers so many of these spots, and the school wants a commitment in advance for these select students.
How does one choose which option to take? Well from experience, if your high school GPA is slightly less than the schools you really want to attend, you might consider the PG year. This is a Post-Graduate year in a secondary school; some actually repeat a junior or senior year in their own schools, which is a similar tactic. This method allows your actual high school GPA to change with the courses you take. Some go to a boarding school or another option rather than stay in their own schools. The PG year grades will have a separate transcript, but most colleges will allow that PG year to be cumulative with the prior GPA.
During the PG year, the student typically takes different classes, so there is no repetition of courses. Also there is an option for Advanced courses for which the student was not able to take during the regular course of school. So this adds a more comprehensive transcript leaving high school, and perhaps a higher GPA, which can change your entire college list from not taking the PG year and taking what you are able to with just 4 years of high school. Also, some recruited athletes are actually asked to take this year, in order to qualify for recruiting for a position already filled for that particular year. In general just repeating high school years for added courses or to improve grades is not suggested.
What about the Gap Year? Well, the gap year is often chosen after a student has actually been accepted into college, but defers entrance for a year or even just a semester. This is not a year to just hang out and do nothing! In fact, this is a great opportunity to gain work experiences or other types of experiences that might actually broaden you and help you matriculate into college in a less intense way. Some students take college course while working and saving money for their college expenses coming up the next year. Other students take formal Gap Year Programs abroad to participate in another culture, which often includes some academic work. Some do Gap Year programs that are community service and international. Some students actually join the Peace Corps for two years. All of these options are considered a very mature choice.
One drawback of the Gap Year is that you really cannot improve your GPA and your college list; this is usually done once you have been accepted into a college during senior year, but you choose to defer entrance to later date. It is not a way to escalate into a better school. You can take a Gap year without accepting any college, but when then you have to apply when you are done as a regular first year applicant.
So, perhaps you are committed to taking time off, should you continue to take your ACT or SAT tests now? YES. Most people really need to get the tests done while actually attending high school. Few really do much to prepare for these if they have taken a year off, and this strategy has more backfires that benefits. BUT there is a good option for you…if you have decided to do PG or Gap Year, you can take the tests not just this fall but also in the spring, as you will not be going directly to college. You can get better. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!!
Why bother…well, it is not just to improve your options with your college list and options, but many schools do offer a lot of scholarship assistance the higher your scores are! It is true. If you have a lot of AP courses, a high GPA, or really high scores, you will be in a better position to be offered scholarship funds. These are extremely valuable for many students. I had one parent do the math about spending more than 10K on test prep for his daughter. But it paid off tremendously for both she and he….she was able to bring up her scores of her SAT over 350 points; she was offered scholarship funds the equivalent of 75% of her entire college costs for her first two years-tuition, board, fees, and she was offered 8 fully paid roundtrip flights back to home as the school was on the West Coast and she lived on the East. Her father told me it saved him more than 120k for the first two years. This is something to think about seriously.
However, not all students are good test takers, and many cannot afford the luxury of premier private tutoring to get those hundreds of points in scores for SAT or at least 10 points on the ACT….but practice, practice, practice will help any at some point. So if you are choosing to opt out of going right to college, still consider taking these tests, because you will be rewarded for the efforts.
Any who are confused and want counsel, please feel free to contact. There are also other options for people who need a break financially for a couple of years from the full freight of a major university. There are options for you as well. Just Call!