Learning How To Learn

Why Taking a GAP Year Can Be a Good Plan For a Disabled Youth

Society stresses that attendance to college after you graduate high school is a must. But there are many reasons why this should not be the societal norm and why it is not the best path for everyone. A gap year is a period of time taken by a student to travel or work most often after high school before starting college. Some youth refer to this a “break from formal education.”

Actually this does makes sense for many youth but especially for youth that have a disability. In fact this break can be just what this youth needs in order to form solid and well thought out plans for the future. If you think about it you can probably come up with many reasons why one particular youth, maybe yourself, would benefit from a gap year. Here are ten reasons why a gap year makes sense for a youth with a disability.

  1. You are not quite ready to be on your own.
    Many youth with disabilities often need more time to gain the daily life skills needed to live independently. Sometimes life skills get overlooked and the time needed is not taken to sharpen them. This could be a year of living at home but gaining skills in other areas that some take for granted. For example, taking the time to learn about using a checking account and other financial literacy topics that can be helpful for living independently.
  2. You need to gain work skills.
    Often if you struggled academically, then work was not really an option for you during the school year because it was tough for you to do both. This is a chance to be able to gain that experience. Having a year of employment under your belt can be an asset to your total academic and work profile. This also allows you to practice those work skills that are so important in life. Getting to work on time and being responsible for specific work duties are good skills to have. This also provides more opportunity for you to get references to provide letters of recommendation for your college or trade school applications.
  3. You need time to work on coping with a variety of specific challenges.
    If you think of the challenges you dealt with during your academic career, I am sure you can think of one or two that you wish you had more time to work on. For example, this gap year can be a year of learning to manage your time better. This is something that being employed can help you with. Or perhaps you have never mastered public speaking. Maybe use this time to join Toastmasters International http://www.toastmasters.org/default.aspx and sharpen those public speaking and leadership skills.
  4. You need to save money.
    As a youth with a disability you may not have had the opportunity to work and therefore you never really got the chance to save money. Spending a year at a job will not only help with gaining that work experience and skills, but it will allow you put some money away for upcoming college or training expenses.
  5. You need to practice being in a college classroom.
    Many youth with disabilities and actually many youth in general are not really sure if college is the right path for them. Some young people may find that a trade school is a better option and a more fitting path. But how do you know? Well you can always enroll in a community college during your gap year and try college out. Take one class. See what it is like to be in that lecture hall and not the high school class room. Test the waters. You may find out that college will work for you and then you also have a college credit you can transfer to whatever college or university you eventually do attend.
  6. You are not sure what your interests are.
    You are probably well aware that college is not cheap. And you may have been working so hard to get through high school academically that you never really took the time to figure out what you are REALLY interested in. So take a gap year to really decide if college is the investment you want to make. You should use this time to figure out what your career goals are. Take some time to research career fields. You may even find out that the career path you want to take does not require a four-year degree but a technical degree instead. For example you may find that you have an interest in the culinary field. So you may want to think about culinary school. Or you perhaps you have always had an interest in welding. Take a welding class at your local community center or adult education setting and see if that is the career path you want to walk.
  7. You never had the chance to really learn a foreign language.
    Often youth with disabilities miss out on mastering a foreign language.   Sometimes they are allowed to opt out of a foreign language because of their disability. Or when it comes down to academic classes; that was the class that had to suffer in order for you to get through the others. Maybe you even passed with a C or D, but did you really learn that language? Or maybe the language you really wanted to take was not offered. Well take the language now. Take a class at the local community college or online and get that foreign language to a point that you can actually use the skill.
  8. You have never really traveled.
    Use this gap year to travel to a place you have never been and volunteer in another part of the country or if you are ready venture even further; go to another part of the world. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in the United States and just as many abroad. Find one that interest you and look into it. You may even discover other talents and interest you didn’t even know you had.
  9. You want to decrease the likelihood of dropping out of college. 
    Dropout rates for young adults with disabilities from college are much higher than those for young adult without disabilities. Disabled students have to work much harder to overcome obstacles that can interfere with their education. Students that arrive at college with a full year of life experience behind them are much more likely to stay in college and finish the degree they started. This gap year may be just what you need to get prepared for dealing with the social pitfalls college will bring and the temptations to engage in risky behavior that can be detrimental.
  10. You need to improve your college admission chances.
    Getting into that number one choice is not easy for any student. And if you are a student with academic challenges then it is even more difficult. So if you want to be able to add to your essay a great narrative about a gap year volunteer or work experience; Or, if you are able to add to an application that you are fluent in a second language. This can only increase your chances of getting into that school you dreamed of going to and reaching those goals you set out to meet.

Even if a gap year was not in your plans, it might make sense to make it part of your journey.

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