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College 101

Don't Be a Cliché If You're Gonna Do This...
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

A gap year really is a gift that you give to yourself. So, in the words of our Great Aunt Bessie: Use it in good health, darling. You get to take some time after high school to explore the world and gain extraordinary experience, get to know yourself…and maybe realize that your self needs to be in school. Or you can fall into one of these clichés and end up a GAP casualty. Don’t muck this up.

-The “Takin’ a Year Off-er”: Yes, a gap year is a period of time between high school and college. What it doesn’t equal is a year off. Take summer vacation to relax and work on your tan and our longboard moves. After that, be sure your Gap year can be justified to your college. Otherwise, when they ask you why you deferred, your answer may force them to un-invite you to the party (the study party, the house parties, the dorm parties, the frat parties… that is).

-The Post-GAP Applicant (AKA the Gaplicant): Perhaps you’re planning to take a gap year and then apply to college. Bad move. Listen, in high school, you’re going to be surrounded by resources. Your teachers are there to write letters of recommendation and edit essays. Your counselor is there for you to bounce ideas off of. Your classmates are there to help motivate you. Pens abound. After you graduate? Not so much. After a gap year? Even more not so much. Apply now, then defer.

-The Vagabond: You can recognize this cliché by the humongous backpack and the smell of patchouli, the Burning Man plans, and B.O. The thought process that led here? “I think I’ll wander the globe for a year before college.” Most of these folks find, after a year of hostels with shared bathrooms, a library of travel guidebooks, and one too many hair wraps, that they’re no more prepared for college than they were when they graduated high school (except that maybe they can say “Where can I buy cigarettes” in six different languages).

-The Ten Years Later Wake Up: Yes, we understand many people will need to work for a year to save money to help cover the costs of college. And yes, we remember how exciting it was to get that first paycheck, maybe get an apartment and be on your own for a while. You may even be able to scratch out a decent standard of living—maybe even cook dinner for your folks once in a while and finally buy your dream bed. Don’t take your eyes off the prize. The idea is to save money for college, not to fall into the routine of working a minimum-wage job to pay the rent and bills. Because guess what? Ten years just went by and you’re still doing the same thing.

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