Following In Malia Obama’s Footsteps: Is A Gap Year A Good Idea?

Lincoln High School Counselor Weighs In

Sometimes we all just need a little time off. That’s exactly what President Obama’s daughter is doing before heading off to college. Malia is taking what’s called a gap year; a year off between high school and college. Popular in Europe and Australia, the gap year is becoming somewhat of a national trend, but is it a good idea?

“Obama’s daughter has chosen to do it before she goes to Harvard, I think that has sparked some more interest again in the ‘gap’ year,” said Lincoln High School Counselor Jackie Geppert-Anderson.

In her first ten years as a counselor at Lincoln High School, Geppert- Anderson says she never saw students taking a year off, they just simply didn’t go to college. In the last five years though, it’s become more popular. She says she’s seen a handful of students come through her door with the idea.

Geppert-Andersons said, “We’ve had kids that have gone on mission trips, that have studied abroad, that have learned a foreign language or some kids have just really taken the opportunity to get a good perspective on who they are.”

She feels that’s similar to what Malia Obama will do, on her year hiatus before she attends Harvard in 2017. Geppert-Anderson says as a counselor, she’s got a good idea of who those kids are.

“I know what they’ve been like academically. I know what they’re attendance has been like. I know what their drive has typically been like…,” said Geppert-Anderson.

Geppert-Anderson says for some the term can just be an excuse. She says some just aren’t prepared, they’re scared to be away from home, or they say they need to save up money first.

“I do not like it when parents say ‘Well, we don’t know exactly what they’re going to do, they’re just going to take a gap year’. Well okay, but again, they could become a fixture on the couch, watching T.V. if you don’t plan for something more.”

She says if college seems overwhelming, it’s good to get their feet wet with a couple of classes first so that gap doesn’t become a financial hole.

While it is becoming more popular, less than 1-percent of high school seniors in the U.S. actually take a year off. That’s about the number Geppert-Anderson says she sees at Lincoln High School.