Open Phones: Delaying College

Thursday, April 26, 2012

College campus. (Nina Eller/flickr)

Do you think that college-bound high school grads should take a year or two off to enter the job market before going back to school?

Comments [29]

Kate from Washington Heights

I took a year off after high school, and then the following year went to a local state college part time while working full time. I was working at a political action group, where most of my co-workers (in New Haven, CT) were Yale students or Yale grads. When I went off to college at University of Chicago, I really missed my in many ways more intellectually stimulating life as a full time worker and part time student.

Apr. 27 2012 12:05 AM
Bob from Manhattan

Great show topic for today. I myself WISHED that I had taken time between high school and college. I was forced through the will of my parents to attend college after a whirlwind of forced achievement (leadership in the community, Eagle Scout, developing music programs at high school, working a summer job which included director responsibilities, church activities and etc.) I basically went directly from that whirlwind into college – worked an overloaded maxed out credit schedule in one of the school's toughest majors and completing an imposed Minor in music as well as working as an RA in the dorms. I only had a few months in my senior year of college to hang out with new friends and drink a little beer. So where did all of this high school and college get me? A job that I hated for the first three years out of college, then unemployment for the following three years, then two years working a corporate job, getting laid off due to downsizing then suffering complete burnout followed by 4 more years of unemployment and basically living in poverty in Harlem.

I thought that it was crazy that a friend of mine took a year off between high school and college, but in hindsight, that was probably the most important thing that he did. It was my parent's determination and influence that forced me onto a path that was not my own. I think that it is important to realize that once your child is 18 years old, it is important for you to give them the gift of responsibility that they have to take their life into their own hands and be able to make decisions for themselves. If I was given the freedom to explore myself, my interests, and aspirations I would better appreciate why I was at school in the first place, set my own goals, and attend the college that I wanted to attend - and why I wanted to do so and what I wanted to get out of it. We have to realize that colleges are primarily businesses and institutions that are designed to make money and you will be in debt to for most of your life. It is a product that we buy into and if you have determination to do something in life, you need to follow it through whether or not you even go to college. Getting employment in NYC had little to do with where I went to school or what I did, and perhaps, worked against me in many cases because I did not go to an ivy league school. But in reality, I preserved in obtaining employment without disclosing my college background and ended up working alongside ivy league graduates anyway.

I short, parents: take a look at what truly motivates you children and by the time they are 18 - hands off! You have to let them take responsibility for their own lives. Taking a year off between high school and college allows people to center themselves and realize what they need to continue forward.

Apr. 26 2012 12:46 PM
Kathryn from Williamsburg

When I graduated High School, it was still possible to find a good job working for companies still doing their own manufacturing in the U.S.; a situation I doubt highly is any longer available. During my two years at a light-manufacturing tech job, I met many men and women who were very happy to have living-wage jobs that did not require college degrees to do.

Not everyone wants to, can, or even should attend college, and many would like to (or as I did, have to) work a few years at a respectable job before beginnning it. In recent years I believe outsourcing, as well as a deep bias towards often ill-advised college education, have changed this.

Apr. 26 2012 12:18 PM

The lack of math skills holds a lot of people back, and since men are "supposed" to be good at math, it is very hard for boys who aren't good at math to think about higher education. Real-world experience gives all that math a purpose and context. Once a young person sees what math is used for in the real world and what math is needed for a job, they often learn it just fine. In other words, if a worker needs to understand fractions for their job--lo and behold, they master fractions. If they love computers, or cars.... they master the math that's important to them. Perhaps the gap year could benefit those individuals by boosting their confidence.

Apr. 26 2012 12:14 PM
Kerith from Brooklyn

We've hosted 6 au pairs from Germany - all high school graduates getting taking off a year before college, which is common there.
I don't think they learned what they wanted to major in while here so much as they grew up and became independent.
I spent much of my first year of college adapting to independence, dealing with lonliness, partying, learning my limits and how to organize my time. Our au pairs managed all of these things during their year living here in New York. I've watched them all grow remarkably from their parents' children into confident and independent women. This is not to discount what they learned about child care and just handling the demands of a full time job. But I think giving a high school kid time to grow up emotionally before forking over tens of thousands of dollars for them to ostensibly study is like scraping and priming the wall before painting.

Apr. 26 2012 12:12 PM
Henry from Katonah

What is the matter with working any crappy job for a year and learning that you don't want to work any crappy job for the rest of your life?
( This was my post-high school lesson and I am proud of it! )

Apr. 26 2012 12:02 PM
John from Fanwood, NJ

I started St. Peter's College in 1964 at the age of 17. I was totally unprepaired and got booted for poor grades. I worked in an awful factory for $2/hour and although my co-workers were great, I didn't want to be them. I took night classes, and went back to St. Peter's and graduated. I never did great in school, but I got through with the thought of not going back to that factory. I had a 35 year career with the Federal government and now I'm retired.

Apr. 26 2012 11:58 AM
Len from White Plains

The cost of college is now an absurdity. Fortunately the internet now offers free education at the highest level - MIT now offers a certificate program. It's not an MIT degree, but for those who know what they want to learn -maybe those who've had some practical experience, the skills are more important than the piece of paper.

Apr. 26 2012 11:58 AM
andy from manhattan

there is not always a lot of direction set in high school graduates. i took a break after 3 years of college, worked in several jobs i hated for 5 years, then went back to finish my degree.

as an adult, i performed a million times better than as a younger person. learning by working jobs how little existed worth having without college is a great way to provide an internal incentive to complete college.

the external pressure towards college from parents is the reason so few make good use of college years.

Apr. 26 2012 11:58 AM
Roman from Long Island

As a university lecturer, I find that many students come into college unprepared and a percentage of them view college as an extension to high school. 'Non-traditional' students almost always exhibit much more interest in my classes and often contribute much more substantially to discussions. The addition of a gap year could also enrich university courses as students would be able to draw from additional life experiences.

An entry level position for high school graduates and subsequent gap year would expose them to a world outside high school and instead of being insulated by a university. The exposure to different options for a young adult is important in their personal development and decision of whether or not a university education is necessary for them.

Apr. 26 2012 11:57 AM
Bob from Huntington

Let's stop thinking of college as simply a white-collar job training program. It's primary function is to expose people to different ideas and modes of thinking. You may utlimately land in a completely different field than your major, but you will be a better-informed, hopefully, more rationally thinking individual as a consequence of the experience.

Apr. 26 2012 11:57 AM
Nick from NYC

I think people will figure out that having a fulltime job messes up your financial aid chances. If you have an income, you will look more "wealthy" in terms of financial aid since financial aid applications assess your prior year's earnings. A kid who works looks less needy than a kid who lives with their parents, receiving a lot more 'invisible' income in terms of food, roof over head, place to store belongings, etc.

Apr. 26 2012 11:57 AM
Chris Boese from Brooklyn, NY

Hi Brian,

Love your show. I just wanted to chime in to say there is a VERY big risk that going to work after high school may derail the college bus altogether, and that is a problem that should give every parent pause.

Yes, many strongly motivated people will still finish school anyway, like my mom, who interrupted college to have me, and then spent 10 years going to night school to complete her degree, finally, when I was 12 (with a 4.0 average). I was so proud of her.

But young people have other attentions, like getting married, having kids, that could permanently track them into lower middle class lives, just by virtue of delaying entry into college.

I am someone who babysat at age 13 on, started working retail and in industrial kitchens at 15 (riding a motorcycle with a learners permit), and worked 2 jobs all through college as well, a work study job in my field and a retail job at night.

I was no stranger to work. It was more strange to find, in grad school, the number of my classmates who did not work between degrees. I also worked full-time between my undergrad and masters, and masters and PhD. I do have student loans, but I also worked through my grad degrees as well, and once was even graded down for it, when a writing workshop professor was looking at my photos on the front page of the local paper every day and decided I must not be paying enough attention to my studies.

But I can't tell you about so many others I've known, high school classmates, who got totally derailed, with no future and only years and years in a trailer park ahead of them.

High school is so vapid, it is easy to work then, esp. if one wants to try out various vo-tech tracks. But kids out of high school are SO immature these days (I've taught them in college, and they are barely high school prepared). They are younger than we were at the same age, more coddled, less able to make good decisions for their long term future.

If they rule college out of their futures prematurely, when so young, I think it is the equivalent these days of being a high school dropout. You give up on your future before you are mature enough to realize what you're giving up. People should be prevented from doing that, if possible.

Apr. 26 2012 11:57 AM

is the fact that college is becoming the domain of women (as per your stats) the reason we are now talking about the lack of value of a college education? just sayin....

Apr. 26 2012 11:57 AM
Jacob from Brooklyn

Think about all of the students that work while attending college. To think of college as a distinct period of life is simply not the reality for 95% of college students today.

Apr. 26 2012 11:57 AM
C.E. Connelly from Manhattan

I've been a college administrator for almost 20 years. In my observation, it is true that some student's go to college who might be better off doing something else. A bigger problem, though, is 17, 18, 19 years olds choosing what they want to do with their lives. I don't know how they can be expected to make that decision. I know this flies in the face of all the idea that specialization is the key to future, I think all college students should follow a mostly standardized curriculum as undergraduates. Only after they have a basic sense of the world of knowledge should they be choosing how they want to specialize.

Apr. 26 2012 11:56 AM
Anonymous from Brooklyn

I took a year off in the middle of college and always wished I had taken a year off between high school and college. When I returned to college after working, I was far more focused and aware of the privilege of being in school.

Apr. 26 2012 11:56 AM
Phoebe from Bushwick

I took a year off between HS and college and worked, lived with friends, and partied. It meant that I had a lot of leisure when I did apply, because I wasn't in school. Additionally, I was ready for school. A lot of the kids I was with kind of went crazy because they weren't in their parents' houses for the first time. On the other hand, I was ready to buckle down.

It was the best choice I could have made.

Apr. 26 2012 11:56 AM
Jim B

One disconcerting aspect of this discussion is that it is grounded partly in an argument that goes back to William Bennett in the Reagan administration and recently repeated by Rick Santorum whose real goal is cut back government support for education. Further, if you don't have clear goals it's easy to get sidetracked away from higher education.

Apr. 26 2012 11:56 AM
Muriel from nyc

I hear no one who actually did what Brian asks. I did work between high school and college then between my first and second year. I paid for my own college and grad school and tell everyone they should do this.

Apr. 26 2012 11:56 AM
jmurphy from long island

the flip side is that most employers, for any office job including receptionists, now REQUIRE a college degree - look at the job ads.

Apr. 26 2012 11:55 AM
Alternative Ed

Highly recommend checking out Amanda Krauss on the issue of ivory tower academia and the real world challenges that most colleges utterly fail to prepare students for:

Apr. 26 2012 11:54 AM

Many HS grads around the world have a "gap year" between HS and university that I believe should be adopted by students & families in the US. Its a period of self-reflection and personal growth which young people can find out what they truly like in life and pursue. Many of these pursuits may not need a college education so it can save many people tons of money.

Apr. 26 2012 11:51 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

I think they should do as in Germany - get apprenticeships

Apr. 26 2012 11:51 AM
Jenna from UWS

I worked all through college nearly fulltime. I worked in a factory in the summertime. At the end of the day and 10 years out after graduation I'm not certain of my career anymore. The work didn't prepare me for much other than how to save money.

It does seem that kids that didn't have to work and had "breaks" and "holidays" had nothing to worrry about.

Apr. 26 2012 11:50 AM
jenna from Hamilton Heights

As a college instructor, I see too many students who don't take school seriously. They are late, skip class and don't do the work. If they did this in a work environment, they would be FIRED. This could be a good lesson for them to realize that their actions have consequences.
It could be good to teach responsibility and remind young adults the limited amount of jobs available for people without a college degree.

Apr. 26 2012 11:50 AM
jmurphy from long island

I think this is much more feasible now that they don't need to be full time students to remain under parent's health insurance.

I myself delayed college because I lacked maturity and self-motivation. Parents need to recognize when their children are not ready.

Apr. 26 2012 10:52 AM
Sadie from Manhattan

I think a "gap year" is a great idea for some students, especially those planning to leave home for residential colleges. The first year of college can be an overwhelming experience for students, both academically and socially. I think that taking a year after high school in a non-school setting to spend time away from home, meet new people, and gain some independence could help students acclimate to their new social conditions and concentrate on academics once they get to college.

Apr. 26 2012 10:20 AM
carolita from nyc

I think all young people should be thinking about self-education and/or community or online colleges. More and more prestigious colleges are not really worth their tuition these days for practical purposes. This is America! What ever happened to self-learning? Many jobs waiting to be filled in IT are going to go to people who live and breathe software, gaming, code, and other parts of IT who don't need college to teach them what they need, anyway. They already know more than a professor would. One doesn't need a professor to be the repository and distributor of all knowledge.

Apr. 26 2012 10:00 AM

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