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My child the turtle, or: not every achiever is ready for college

debskidebski Registered User Posts: 35 Junior Member
My kid is a high-school junior at a selective prep school, doing well academically, involved in music, arts, sports, and other activities. Despite her achievements, she lacks confidence that she can continue to do well in college. She is currently in deep college denial, wondering whether she can live and work independently (she has spent summers away from home and traveled with school and friends) and flatly says,"I'm not ready for high school to be over." She is interested in art and instrumental music, but hasn't really identified an area for which she feels enough passion to devote the next years. She isn't particularly sheltered; she has watched older siblings go away to school and abroad, suffer growing pains, and overcome them. We are considering a gap year in art or art history, but they are few and far between. If she does choose to attend college immediately following high school, she will require a school with strong social support and academic advising/guidance, especially for freshmen. She is very involved in high-school life, in sports, music, and public-service groups, and has a job teaching Sunday school. She is not depressed, just fearful that she is not ready for the next big step and is weighing alternatives to immediately beginning college without confidence in the direction she wishes to take. Advice? Experience?

Replies to: My child the turtle, or: not every achiever is ready for college

  • mnparentof3mnparentof3 Registered User Posts: 109 Junior Member
    edited January 2017
    I think it's not terribly uncommon for someone her age to be feeling that way - I feel like it's a developmentally appropriate thing. We have a good friend who said all those things around the same time, especially during junior year when she was seeing many of her senior friends make college decisions and get ready to head off. Change can be scary, and it may seem to her like a lot of her peers have everything planned and are all ready to leave the nest, even if that's not necessarily the case. (It may seem like that to her even more in the "selective prep school" environment where expectations all around are no doubt high among students, parents and everyone else.)

    This friend (now a senior) has come into the idea of college much more now, no doubt because she has a better idea of what she wants to study and because she's found a nice college very nearby where she can come home every weekend, if she wants to. I think a lot of it is that she's visited, stayed over, etc, and can now really visualize herself there, which she could never do before. (Right now she thinks she will want to come home every weekend, by the way, and maybe she will or maybe she won't. There were lots of other points that she insisted she'd never be ready for high school to end, or didn't really want to talk about college - much less visit colleges - for the longest time, etc. And yet, here she is, almost ready to be done with high school and move on to the next stage.

    Maybe your daughter will be more developmentally ready in an emotional sense in 6 months...?

    As for a gap year, maybe she's a great candidate for it. :)
  • jennacwajennacwa Registered User Posts: 479 Member
    If she needs time to figure it all out, a gap year would be great. It's not for everyone, but it could help her grow and do so much for her. You guys have a while to think about it; she can apply to schools and then decide next year if the gap year is right for her. From reading her social needs and behavior, it seems like she'd be a lot more comfortable at a small school like Pepperdine or Furman. They're both around 2,000 students and have nice, secluded campuses with a tight student body.
  • gardenstategalgardenstategal Registered User Posts: 5,307 Senior Member
    This is actually very normal. One high school principal told me that every year they have a handful of kids who need quite a bit of encouragement to finish their applications athis because they are reluctant to leave High School. For many kids, junior year is when they really hit their lick. They are upperclassmen - they have privileges; they are starters on teams; they understand how to study; they have friends; and leaving all of that is pretty terrifying.

    She may feel very different a year from now so while looking at Gap year programs may be a really good idea, I would still encourage her to go ahead and apply to start college at a normal time so that that option is available. I would also think that a student like this might do better at a smaller LAC. When you are looking, consider the orientation programs. Some schools are really quite deliberate and intentional in how they get their new students involved and acclimated. We visited a few that had mandatory week-long programs with activities designed to ensure that when classes started, there would be familiar faces everywhere and maybe even a few stronger friendships growing.

    Do help her think about how she'll get involved at college, and ask guides and students how they did it when they arrived (recognizing that most students selected for those roles are very extroverted.)
  • Snowball CitySnowball City Registered User Posts: 1,763 Senior Member
    That could have been me! I don't transition well at all and dislike not knowing the unknowable aka what will my future be. I didn't figure this out about my character until senior year in college.

    I took a gap year or two which was helpful because I was young and by working I met a lot of people I wouldn't have otherwise but I was still a mess when it became time to head off. There was in my friend group strong sense of disapproval for anyone who stays local.

    My best friend's daughter goes to college in her hometown. She meets up with her family for dinners a couple of times a week. Still does her laundry at home. Studies there for finals. It works for them and she is thriving and involved on campus.

    Figure out what works for her. Help her figure out how she ticks. Tell her where she goes to college and when is nobody's business.
  • MassDaD68MassDaD68 Registered User Posts: 1,548 Senior Member
    Your child might do well with a gap year. it will allow another year to ponder her future and decide what she would like to do. Just remember to preserve her freshman status as entering freshman get the best aid packages. Spending time at a CC might do more harm than good (financially).

    All children grow up. that you can be assured.
  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn Super Moderator Posts: 39,251 Super Moderator
    My son took 2 1/2 gap years! During that period, he volunteered with a Christian organization that provides relief work overseas. It turned his life around and now he is studying at the American University of Beirut and volunteering in the Syrian refugee camp almost daily. If he had gone straight to college after high school, he would have been aimless and unmotivated. Now, he understands that he needs to do well in order to follow his dream of helping people in the Middle East. :)
  • MidwestmomofboysMidwestmomofboys Registered User Posts: 3,956 Senior Member
    Another parent saying, my kid was not interested in thinking about transition to college at all during spring of junior year. It was pulling teeth to get him to think about whether he wanted big, small, near, far etc. Transitions have always been a bit agonizing for this one, so we had to be patient. We also thought a gap year might help. But, as late spring of 11th grade turned to summer and then fall of 12th, he was getting more excited about the next steps, and much more engaged in the search. When the time came, he was more than ready to start the next stage.

    You can get your student on some mailings lists for colleges which might be of interest, check on SAT/ACT test dates and prep, and do some things to keep moving forward. She may get more comfortable with the college search process later in the spring, or she may not. Consider both tracks, college apps and gap year, to keep options open. 11th grade is a tough year -- kids know it "matters" and the anxiety starts to ramp up, especially as they watch seniors go through the process, and it can be terrifying. Hang in there!
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