Maybe you have had thoughts, if only fleeting ones, about doing something between high school and further education. Perhaps, you are stressed out, or confused, or looking for a direction for your further education, or you want a change of pace, a chance to explore the world, time to discover more about yourself, and then come back to your formal education later with more enthusiasm and purpose. If thoughts like these have occurred to you, maybe you should consider an alternative year. Applying to schools in senior year, getting letters of acceptance from some or all of those schools, selecting one of them, and then deferring for a year is an acceptable option.
Certainly, as far as colleges go, proceeding straight through in four years has become less of a standard than it used to be. Many colleges have been publishing graduation rates for some time now in terms of what percent of those who started out as freshman graduate within five or six years. Therefore, the question is not whether a student is likely to take time out of his or her formal education, but rather when. Will he or she do it before starting further education, or during it?
Taking the opportunity to do other things before continuing one's formal education is more than an acceptable option, but an option that can have advantages. For example, review your own high school career. Did your growth in self-confidence and maturity during high school result mainly from academic classroom experiences or mainly from experiences outside the classroom and school? For many people it is the latter. What might that indicate about an alternative year after high school?
New situations develop new parts of the personality. An alternative year could help you discover talents and interests that you have not previously been aware of. You might also expand old talents and interests in circumstances you might not presently be able to envision. Your growth during an alternative year could make further formal education that much more meaningful to you when you return to it.
A plan will help you derive the most benefit from an alternative year. A good plan involves: resources, time, and, space.
Resources: the below list of resources and links will give you something to work with in finding jobs, internships, and volunteer positions, in pursuing interests, developing a new skill or enhancing an old one, becoming aware of all kinds of programs. These resources and links are illustrative and not exhaustive of what is out there.
you might have 15 months to work with. For example, you might have from early June of this year to September of the following year before resuming your formal education. You could sequence a series of activities to fill that time from work to internships to volunteer positions to an adventure program or you could commit yourself to one major activity.
Space: where in the world do you want to be? Do you want to stay at home? Near home? In another part of this country? In another part of the world? A mixture of some or all of these?
Your goals for your alternative year might be clear to you from the beginning. In this case, your search would be for various ways to reach your goals. On the other hand, your goals might only become clear as you find out about the options that are available to you. In either case, your emotions will run the gamut from excitement to nervousness. This is the same range of feelings experienced by those continuing their formal education immediately after graduation. In other words, such feelings are normal when moving from the familiar to the new.
To make the alternative year of your dreams happen will require more or less money depending on what you decide to do. Earning some or all of the money needed to pay for certain programs is part of the experience of an alternative year. If you pick some expensive options that might mean you spend the first half of your alternative year earning the money for what you do in the second half of your alternative year.
Begin your investigation of options by browsing this website and its links. Also, check out some of the print resources that are suggested. What sparks your interest? Follow up on any options that attract you. Contact those organizations directly to find out more information. Create file folders for each organization. As questions occur to you write them down and put them in the appropriate folder. Read the printed information as it begins to arrive in the mail. File it. Re-contact organizations with the questions that have surfaced because of learning more. Ask to speak with others who have participated in the program offered by that organization. Ultimately, good decisions are based on good information.