05 Apr 2016

Don’t Send Your Kids to College. At Least Not Yet.

Abby Falik (MBA 2008) on the value of the “gap” year


Photo by Gary Laufman

Surveying the panic and pressure of college admissions season in the New York Times, Abby Falik (MBA 2008), CEO and founder of Global Citizen Year, suggests that few involved in this cultural pressure cooker realize “how little these outcomes matter in the long run.”

Falik runs through a harrowing list of the costs of the “conveyor belt to college”: high dropout rates, increased stress levels, and massive debt. Her suggested fix? The bridge year—a key facet of Falik’s Global Citizen Year, which offers graduating high school students real world immersion experiences in developing countries.

A growing number of colleges have begun to embrace a novel solution: change the outcomes of college by changing the inputs. What if college freshmen arrived on campus not burnt out from having been “excellent sheep” in high school, but instead refreshed, focused and prepared to take full advantage of the rich resources and opportunities colleges have to offer?

The research, Falik argues, is “undeniable.”

A recent Middlebury study showed that students who take a year off before arriving outperform their peers in their academic and extracurricular engagement on campus. And the American Gap Association reports that students who take a year before college are 75 percent more likely to be “happy” or “extremely satisfied” with their careers post-college.

Given its known benefits, it’s time to rebrand the “gap year” as anything but a “gap.” When used intentionally, the year before college can be a bridge, a launch pad and a new rite of passage. It’s the students who find the courage to step off the treadmill—replacing textbooks with experience and achievement with exploration—who are best prepared for life after high school. And a growing number of colleges are taking notice.


Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 2008, Section E
follow @abbyfalik

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