The Gap Year Decision

What is a Gap Year?

A gap year is a period of time a student takes between high school and college, or between college and graduate school or starting a career. It is a break from formal education to travel, volunteer, study, intern, work, perform research, or, some combination of these activities.

For students with ADHD, the transition from high school to  to college can be difficult. Often these students have poor executive function skills, which can make the less structured and more demanding academic life of college a challenge. A gap year can provide the time they need to mature so they are better able to handle the stresses of college life.

Considerations for Having Your Child Take a Gap Year

Some considerations to help determine if your son or daughter with ADHD may benefit from a gap year include:

  • Readiness for college – Your child lacks self-confidence, study skills or discipline to take on college yet.
  • Boredom or frustration with academics – Your child has had enough of academics for awhile and want to take a breather. The time off can allow him or her to feel refreshed and motivated when they do start college..
  • Wants more life experience – Perhaps your child knows what they want from college, but wants to acquire real life experience to bolster the resume and make them more attractive to potential future employers.
  • Goals – Your child hasn’t been able to choose a major and doesn’t really know what he is truly interested in or passionate about.

If one or more of these apply to your child, it may signal that a gap year could be beneficial.

The Benefits of a Gap Year

A gap year provides the opportunity for students with ADHD to:

  • Get more clarity about their career interests and goals
  • Have the opportunity to develop and practice organizational and life skills
  • Renew a passion for academic coursework and learning
  • Gain a sense of maturity and self-confidence
  • Develop a broader perspective of other cultures and viewpoints
  • Improve their job prospects with employers who want grads with practical experience

Getting Started

The next step is to work with your son or daughter to design a plan for the gap. This should be in alignment with their motivations and interests, and provide for experiences that will help them gain the skills, maturity and self-confidence to tackle college.A good resource to help you with your planning is the Gap Year Association website. It contains tools to help your plan and finance a gap year, as well as advice and a list of accredited gap year programs.

Leading colleges and universities now support the idea of a gap year for their admitted freshmen, and recognize its value and benefit for their students. For students with ADHD, it could make the difference between success and failure in college.

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