The pandemic has forced many students to reconsider their plans for going off to college. That's because of concerns about safety and COVID protocols on college campuses. The other factor is whether learning will be in person or online. After all, a college education is costly. So, spending a fortune on online classes does not sit well with most parents who usually pay those hefty college fees.
But I am already at a residential school. Isn't it the same as being at college? Since you are attending a boarding school, you understand the need for strict safety protocols. Vaccinations, temperature taking, hand washing, masking, and social distancing are norms you have become accustomed to while at school. Furthermore, everybody in the school community abides by those protocols or risks being asked to leave. However, your school is tiny compared with most colleges. Now, that's only one factor that makes attending college riskier than being at your small boarding school.
The other consideration is that most college campuses tend to be open and insecure. Anybody can gain access whether or not they are authorized. Contrast that with your school's campus with limited entry points secured by gated access and security officers.
The final consideration is the teaching. What will happen if there is a COVID outbreak on the college campus? Will all classes be taught online? Will the college close? Will the dormitories close?
Against this backdrop of uncertainties, if you are in your last year of high school, I suggest that you carefully consider what you will do next year. Staying at your school for Grade 13 or taking a year off might be just the answer for you. With that in mind, let's look at your options.
This TedTalk explains why everybody should take a year off before going to college.
A Post-graduate Year
Staying put in your present school for another year has several advantages. First of all, you know the school and its faculty intimately. A postgraduate year will allow you to explore your favorite subject or subjects in more depth—for example, let's say you've been studying Mandarin and have developed your conversational skills to the intermediate level. However, your reading and comprehension are not as strong. A PG year will give you the time to improve those deficiencies. Furthermore, you won't have all the stress and distraction of doing AP coursework and those AP examinations in the spring.
Hopefully, you are wondering exactly what goes on in a PG year and if it will be beneficial to you. So, here are some answers.
The Hun School describes how a PG year works:
"What to Know About a Postgraduate Year
Before going off and applying to the first school with a PG program that you find, there are a few things to consider about a postgraduate education:
It's challenging. The postgraduate year is meant to build academic ability and character; therefore, programs tend to be more challenging than some may expect coming out of a high school environment. At the same time, your friends may be going off to college at this time, which can create more of a mental and emotional challenge.
It's not for everyone. It's important to consider that a gap year, especially a postgraduate year, may not be for everyone. If you're considering a postgraduate year, it's important to take into account the advantage and disadvantages in relation to your main focus area.
It's unique to you. A postgraduate gap year is a big decision - and the decision should come from you, the student. Your gap year experience is what you make it; no two gap years are alike and you shouldn't be guided or influenced by what your peers are doing. The postgraduate year is most rewarding when you focus on your own personal growth and goals.
Colleges love the PG year. From liberal arts colleges to Ivy League nationwide, the PG year is typically an indicator to college admissions teams that students are serious about their growth. In addition, the benefits of a postgraduate year usually include an all-around better candidate and future student."
College and Prep opines that postgraduate years provide:
- An academic boost: PG programs can help students conquer the classes their high school schedule could not accommodate or for which they did not have the appropriate prerequisites. Those AP classes add more impressive credits to your transcript and make you a more appealing candidate for the more competitive colleges and programs.
- Athletic opportunities: A PG year can give athletes a chance to increase their visibility, work with elite high school coaches, and train in state-of-the-art facilities. Many top schools with PG programs have strong connections with college coaches and recruiters, and the reputation of these programs can help student-athletes get noticed by colleges that might not have noticed them otherwise.
- Foreign language training: Some of the best boarding schools in the U.S. offer programs for English language learners. A PG year is a perfect solution for students looking to improve their mastery of English in order to study at American universities. Furthermore, students looking to study in a foreign country for college can attend PG programs at international schools or at a domestic school, immersing themselves in advanced foreign language classes.
- Preparation for College Life: A PG year in a boarding school environment is a preview of college, benefitted by more structure, guidance, and support. Students learn to adjust to dorm life, improve their self-regulated organizational skills and time management, and get a head start on developing and understanding the balance between academics, activities, sports, and social life. "
Colleges look very favorably at students who opt to take a PG year. Working to improve their academics in an environment of "structured independence" makes them more capable and mature. They know how to be active participants on campus and are more invested in their classes. Every year, PG graduates are accepted at Ivy League universities, supportive liberal arts colleges, and everything in between."
So there you have it. Two very positive, enthusiastic advocates of a Post Graduate Year. The next step? Discuss it with your parents and with your school counselors.
A Gap Year
The other option is a year off. A gap year means that you are not in school for a year. So what is a gap year? Here's what the Gap Year Association has to say:
"A semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one's practical, professional, and personal awareness."
This video looks at the benefits and myths of taking a gap year after high school.
What about college?
Will a Postgraduate year or a Gap Year undermine your college acceptances? Highly unlikely. College admissions offices tend to view both options positively. They have begun to realize that students who take a year off or do a postgraduate year tend to be more mature, focused, and determined to succeed. However, be honest with the colleges who offer you a place. Let them know what your plans are when you ask for a deferral.
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