Northwestern Press

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Family Project: Daughter’s plan for gap year acceptable

Monday, April 27, 2020 by CAROLE GORNEY Special to The Press in Focus

Q. My daughter, a high school senior, is getting cold feet. She has had her goals all set, been accepted at a good school, but now wants to take a gap year before going to college. I’m not sure how to coach her through it or how hard to push.

“Until the parent has a conversation with the daughter about what she is thinking, and what her concerns are, it is going to be very difficult to ‘coach her through it,’” panelist Chad Stefanyak said, adding, “This is a perfect time for the mother to listen to her child, and help her understand the pros and cons of whatever decision she makes.”

“I would reassure the daughter by explaining that nearly every incoming college freshman is concerned about what his or her future direction should be,” panelist Denise Continenza said, “and that it is becoming more common for some students to take a year off after high school graduation before starting college.”

The good news for the mother is that the gap year doesn’t have to affect college admission, Continenza continued, adding, “Students can get deferments on their college acceptances.”

From the mother-daughter conversation, panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo said it would be important to find out what the student is planning on doing during the gap year. “The parent needs to make sure the daughter understands what options she has available, and the parent needs to be supportive of whatever decision the daughter makes,” said Mercado-Arroyo.

Working for the year is one of the options, of course, but panelist Mike Daniels said it would not do much to help concerns about the cost of going to college.

“The daughter is not likely to make more than $6,000 by taking an interim job,” Daniels said. If the daughter lacks confidence in her ability to do well in college, Daniels suggested having her take a course or two at a community college to help her get the confidence she needs.

Panelist Mike Ramsey also explained that colleges and universities have programs where students get to visit the campus and meet other students. The visitors get to sleep overnight in the dorms to experience what that would be like. “That experience would help the daughter make a more informed decision,” Ramsey said.

The important thing for the mother to realize, panelist Pam Wallace said, is that just because her daughter doesn’t go to college now, doesn’t mean she never will.

“After a year of working or traveling or volunteering or doing internships, she may be more motivated than ever,” said Wallace.

This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Denise Continenza, extension educator; Mike Ramsey, program supervisor, Valley Youth House; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, educator and former school administrator, and Bahar Mallah, family practice therapist.

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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.

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