Articles & Alerts

How to Talk to Your Kids about their Gap Year

August 30, 2021

Although taking a “gap” year between high school and college is less common in the United States than it is in Europe, an increasing number of young Americans are choosing this path. A gap year doesn’t necessarily have to be “time off”; rather, it can offer your child a prime opportunity to learn lessons outside of the classroom, such as the impact of volunteer work, cultivating a new skill or experiencing new cultures. One way to better ensure that your child is using the time wisely is to talk to them about what their plans are and how their gap year fits into their future goals and values.

For example, one of the most common gap year activities is travelling abroad, which can be an exciting but sometimes daunting experience. Nearly 90% of the respondents to the Gap Year Association’s (GYA) 2020 Gap Year Alumni Survey travelled outside of the US and Canada for their gap years. If your child intends to travel abroad for all or part of their gap year, make sure they have clear plans about where they are going, how they will be travelling, where they will be staying, what they will be doing there, and any preparations they need to take beforehand such as receiving vaccinations and obtaining visas.

Another common gap year activity is engaging in volunteer work, with 79% of respondents to the survey having done some volunteering or service work during their gap year. Volunteer and service can often go hand-in-hand with travelling abroad and experiencing other cultures. International Volunteer HQ has a guide to international volunteer programs, but it’s important for you and your child to thoroughly research any program before your child applies or puts a deposit down.

Some questions to consider are how the program is handling travel restrictions, including any ongoing restrictions from the COVID-19-pandemic; the policies and procedures in place to contend with unforeseen medical, crime, or political discord issues; and what your child’s everyday life, such as housing and meals, would be like during the volunteer work.

Finally, as you have these discussions with your child, keep an open mind and remember that your child’s desire to take a gap year does not mean that they are opposed to college or that they will be any less serious about their studies when they get there. Your child’s gap year may not only be an experience they remember for a lifetime, but also an important steppingstone to their future.

Having these important conversations with your child about their motivations, plans and activities could help them find valuable lessons in their experiences. To discuss planning and goals related to your child’s financial future, please contact your Anchin Relationship Partner or Elizabeth Morin, a Director in Anchin Private Client, at [email protected].