College & Beyond

Gap Year

Traditionally, parents urge children to start college right after high school. I remember asking my parents about taking a year off between college and law school, and my father worried that I would forget how to take notes. I wondered how I could forget such ingrained skills after so many years of practice! Shortly after, I visited my elementary school, where I ran into my art teacher, now an administrator. She offered me a job as an assistant in a second grade classroom. So, I deferred law school for one year. I ended up working at the elementary school for two years before going to law school, and trust me when I tell you that all of the critical skills learned from preschool through college came back very quickly.

What I gained in the two years between college and law school was invaluable. The time spent between schooling pushed me closer to my goal than the four years in law school, particularly since much of my work involved helping individual students on their areas of weakness. Although I gained a tremendous amount from my legal education as well, a gap year can turn into a piece of one’s growth rather than what parents deem a failure of one’s time. Particularly in cities such as Los Angeles and New York, children are placed on an educational path as early as Mommy and Me. Parents lovingly guide their children to keep walking straight on the path, not realizing that sometimes straying off leads to new routes.

A gap year can be a branch of the path that one’s already on. My dear neighbor recommended a gap program where she had sent her own family members as well as friends. This program is worth looking into if you are a parent who thinks your child is not ready for college or needs an extra year of maturity or if you are a student who feels burned out, overwhelmed, or unsure of one’s future. Started in 1980 by Cornelius H. Bull III, the Center for Interim Programs offers a range of experiences, including studying six weeks of art history in Venice, Florence, and Rome; researching Humpback whales in Hawaii; working as an intern at a school for the blind and deaf; mentoring street children in Mexico, or attending a language study and home stay in Japan. Please visit the Center for Interim Programs website to learn more about these extraordinary programs, and be sure to keep an open mind about the gift of a gap year.