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UGH, please tell me I'm not alone in my frustration (long)

dreambig55dreambig55 73 replies5 threads Junior Member
I'll try to keep this brief. My S20 is a high stats kid (36/1600, NMSF, good ECs, APs while working lots of PT hours during school) who has been planning to apply EA (one ED) to a handful of top-tier schools and another handful RD. Of course, like many others, he is in the thick of getting his application and essays ready. He's one of those kids who is blessed that much comes naturally to him. Meaning, he hasn't had to work extremely hard for his good grades, did SOME good prep for the SAT, nothing for the ACT, etc. He's been working on essays and his personal statement since this summer, but now it's crunch time and as we warned him, it would be a lot of work. He's already decreased his college list from 20ish down to about 12-13, so that did help. He is a laid-back kid and nothing much stresses him out. Well, until lately it seems.

He has known what he wants to study for a long time. He's very clear on that and definitely has strengths and a history of interest and internships in that area. It's not a matter of not knowing what he wants his path to be in life.

Sooooooo.....now he's mentioning maybe wanting to do a gap year. I'm guessing it's mostly because for once in his life, he is having to work hard at something and not just "wing it." He has been excited for college to move onto subjects he wants to dive into and study that actually interest him. I know there are plenty of kids where a gap year is a perfect option. Many times, they're undecided in their major, they are still honing in on what they want to study, they want to explore interests to narrow it down, or they may want to work FT so they can save up money for college and contribute financially, etc. He's not one of those kids with some serious desire to travel overseas to expand on his experiences within his planned major or do some type of mission work. Financially, he does not have to work over the next year to afford college - we're lucky to be in a position where we've saved and that's not necessary. I just think it comes down to he's not used to working this hard and wants to bail out of putting in the effort and time. He has mentioned he wants to explore a gap year because he doesn't want to cram a ton of work into the next few weeks (EA/ED) or months (RD). But on the other hand, he tells us he's on top of things and for us to get off his case because he has it all under control. Maybe he's realizing there IS a lot of work. That's been his only reason to want to pursue a gap year. But I'm guessing just needing a break is good reason, too.

But I can't help but think he is selling himself short and would possibly hurt his chances at getting into some of these top 20 schools if he does a gap year without a strong reason. Plus that's just delaying the inevitable of eventually having to work on these essays/applications. He's in a somewhat unique situation with his stats and talent and I can't help but feel he'd be throwing some of that away. I know we can't make him do it because I definitely don't want to see him go somewhere and crash and burn or be miserable during his first year in college. Perhaps deferring a year would be a good option for him if he truly needs to do something else first. This is something we will also discuss with him.

He has always been looking forward to college up until the past couple weeks. Yes, we've been on him and probably need to just let him meet his deadlines on his own, but he's one of those "last minute" kids and we're trying to support him by staying on track. He is SO ready for college - not just intellectually, but socially. He's ready to spread his wings and grow into adulthood. I think he would also be miserable during another year at home with our "rules" and probably still feeling like a high school kid.

I'd love to hear from anyone that has experienced a similar situation with their child. I'd just hate for him to ruin his chances by taking a gap year. What did you do? Is taking a gap year looked poorly upon when there's not a huge, passionate reason? He's got such potential and his vision is being clouded because of the dedication it takes to get this process all done.

THANKS in advance! (Crap, sorry so long!)

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Replies to: UGH, please tell me I'm not alone in my frustration (long)

  • cinnamon1212cinnamon1212 513 replies6 threads Member
    I thought gap years were usually taken after applications, and after a school was decided on (and with the school's permission).
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  • thumper1thumper1 75184 replies3300 threads Senior Member
    @cinnamon1212 some kids decide to take gap years before they send one application in to a college. Others apply, get accepted and ask to defer a year.

    To @dreambig55 maybe your son should just apply regular decision to his schools. If he gets accepted to his top choice, he can ask to defer (you probably should check to see if that is an option at the colleges). If he doesn’t get accepted, he can take a gap year and apply anew next fall.

    At this point, I think I wouldn’t push the ED and EA applications unless there is a financial aid issue and he has early deadlines to meet to qualify for merit aid. With his nice stats, that certainly is a possibility he doesn’t want to lose.
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  • dreambig55dreambig55 73 replies5 threads Junior Member
    edited October 7
    @Techno13 @cinnamon1212 - I guess that's what I'm thinking deferred enrollment is. He's talking though about not even applying for another year. But deferring is an option we would encourage if he is set on doing this - he needs to apply first, then decide. But I know some schools only grant it under certain circumstances.
    edited October 7
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29583 replies58 threads Senior Member
    I agree with @thumper1 The ED crunch may just be too intense for him right now. RD stretches out the timeline more. It’s not like he’s hot for any particular school right now anyways and for ED it’s best to have a particular favorite.

    Gap years are recommended heartily here by many of the high schools. It’s a good idea to apply to colleges senior year because it’s all at your fingertips, the school provides the momentum and there is the risk that key players move in a year making things more difficult when applying to college as a graduated student. But not going directly to college is something supported by many fine colleges and high schools alike.
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  • dreambig55dreambig55 73 replies5 threads Junior Member
    edited October 7
    And good point, @thumper1 . He would likely jeopardize some potential merit scholarship opportunities. I'm guessing he wouldn't even be eligible for those if he deferred a year. I don't know for sure, but I'll look into it.

    @cptofthehouse - he does have a favorite that he was all set to apply ED to. And another EDII if he didn't get accepted. This has all come to a head in the past day or so. We'll be sitting down to have a (hopefully) calm conversation.

    Thanks. :)
    edited October 7
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 2344 replies43 threads Senior Member
    I am with you, @dreambig55. A gap year is okay, but your DS should apply this year (either ED or RD, whatever works for your family) and then defer.

    If what he is looking for in a college changes over the gap year, you can deal with that if or when you come to it. If he waits to apply next year his needs could be put behind those of a whole new class of students.
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  • thumper1thumper1 75184 replies3300 threads Senior Member
    If he has early applications for merit consideration, those need to get done on time, or he will not be considered for the merit awards that require early applications.

    If he applies and defers, and gets merit, you need to ask the schools if the merit award will still apply a year later.

    If he doesn’t apply at all this year, he will be applying as a freshman applicant next year and can get the applications done in time to meet deadlines for merit awards.

    There are schools that give NMF great awards regardless of when they apply.

    What schools is he considering?
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29583 replies58 threads Senior Member
    edited October 7
    My youngest child is a sweetheart in disposition, and an excellent student with the discipline to complete needed tasks.

    He floundered in the midst of the early applications process even though he had it ever so easy in that his school and I paced him through junior year and the summer so he was good to go. On top of that, he only took the ACT once, had very little test prep.

    When he got the early apps out in what I thought was a very smooth easy process, he declared that he was done. If he didn’t get into his ED school, he’d pick an EA school that accepted him. There would be no RD applications.

    I have never prodded my kids as much as I did when he was accepted EA to Tulane and was invited to apply for a full ride scholarship with a deadline by year end or so. Though he decided he’d go there, pending ED result which had not yet arrived, he was out of gas when it came to filling out a whimsical, long application for that big fat juicy scholarship.

    Thankfully, he was accepted ED and it was game over. He never did complete that merit award app.

    He did get s second wind in the new year and mused about other possibilities. But he did get fatigued and was just done with the process in the fall
    edited October 7
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  • LoveTheBardLoveTheBard 2116 replies20 threads Senior Member
    I think that your son is best off applying this year and requesting deferred enrollment rather than "putting off" the application process until next year.

    If he doesn't have a clear plan for his gap year (which it doesn't sound like he does) and if he doesn't end up doing anything extraordinary with his time off, he will likely be a less compelling applicant next year than he would be this year.

    Most private schools will happily grant a request for deferred enrollment –– but I'm not exactly sure how ED and merit aid would figure into that, given that if you apply ED you are expected to enroll in the fall and given that most institutional merit aid (unless it's based on stats) is competitive for the incoming class. Some schools (Princeton, for example) have funded gap year "bridge" programs.

    Public schools aren't usually too keen on gap years unless there's a medical or other compelling reason to justify a deferred enrollment.

    Unless your son a) has a clear top choice college that he really wants to attend *this* fall, and b) doesn't have any need to compare FA and/or merit offers, I would strongly advise him NOT to apply ED.

    Likewise, unless he's got a solid plan for a gap year (besides not wanting to deal with the application process), he shouldn't put off his application.

    He might want to apply to some EA or rolling admissions schools and/or schools without a lot of supplements just to get the ball rolling.

    There's still *plenty* of time before Jan 1st to put together some solid applications, although he needs to be aware of earlier deadlines for merit consideration at some of the schools.
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  • mom2andmom2and 2911 replies19 threads Senior Member
    It is getting real and may be scary. It may not be about having to work hard at this, it may be the thought of college itself has become overwhelming. That will likely pass (or may not) once he has a definite plan.

    I agree with the others - have him apply now with the option to request deferred enrollment by whatever deadline there is IF he has a good gap year plan by then. It is much more difficult (although not impossible) to do the applications when the student is no longer in school. The HS is focused on the graduating seniors, not the kid that is not longer there.

    I would also talk to him about what a gap year at home might look like compared to college. Working at a not-great job, following your rules, doing chores, etc. I would also look at how you have been interacting with him. We don't always realize it, but constantly talking about applications may be causing stress.

    He may well have a change of heart this weekend or sometime soon.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7584 replies61 threads Senior Member
    He sounds overwhelmed to me. I bet once he gets his applications done he'll not want the gap year. And I'm also in the camp of getting the apps in this year and then requesting a gap year later if he still wants it.
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 5604 replies1 threads Senior Member
    12 is still a lot of applications. My two daughters applied to a total of 12 schools between the two of them, and half of those schools were in Canada and therefore had much easier essay requirements.

    "Meaning, he hasn't had to work extremely hard for his good grades,"

    This sounds familiar. Many students who go to highly ranked schools never had to work for their grades, but when they show up at university hit a wall and discover that the game has changed. Suddenly they find that they have to work very hard to keep up. It might be a good thing if your son at least understands that university is going to be a much greater challenge than he has seen up to now. Keeping ahead in every class would reduce stress and probably make it easier to keep the grades up.

    Hopefully among the 12 or 13 schools that your son is interested in there are at least a couple of reaches, a couple of matches, and a couple of safeties that stand out as being some combination of more likely and more desirable and more affordable than the rest. Have him get those done first. I would also try to get the in-state ones done first since being in-state usually (not always) improves both the affordability and the chances of being accepted.

    One daughter seemed to have a very similar approach towards getting the university applications done. At some point she just got to it and got them done after procrastinating for quite a while. A couple of weeks later we had good news from her "super-safety" (the one that we didn't think she even needed to apply to). More good news rolled in over the next couple of months. Hopefully you will have a similar experience.

    I agree with others that it would be better to apply now even if a gap year is likely. Once he sees the acceptances rolling in, he might change his mind about a gap year. However, I do think that a gap year can be very helpful to many students, and is probably done less often than it should be.
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  • makemesmartmakemesmart 1591 replies14 threads Senior Member
    edited October 7
    Could it be just stress-talk?
    DS20 has been a laid-back kid, with very good time management skills and efficient in his studying/ECs. But recently, he has mentioned that Junior year was such a breeze and senior year is so stressful, that was right after his working on his draft 5 of CA essay and had got very frustrated. (Gap year was mentioned, interestingly, since he skipped a grade). Luckily the ebb lasted only a few days.
    I kind of agree that maybe doing RD is a better option? For most kids without a hook, EA/ED might only add pressure and not much benefits.
    edited October 7
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5845 replies10 threads Senior Member
    I know that a few years ago, Harvard sent out info on gap years with their info on revisit days. Tufts has it's own gap year programs. Both (and many others) acknowledge that the kinds of kids they accept may be burnt out and need a re-set before starting college. Your kid could be one of these.

    But yes, as almost everyone above has noted, it is far easier if you get in and THEN elect to take a gap year. Applying to college after graduation is tough. You don't have a GC to coordinate the school part, you have to show your grades from all of senior year, get recs from teachers at as school you no longer attend, etc. For some students, it may be worthwhile. For most, it is just plain harder.

    I wonder if your son might feel some relief about applying now if he knew he'd get a year off before college. It can feel like a big grind just to get into another high pressure situation. It might make it easier to muster the energy for those essays.
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  • mathmommathmom 32458 replies159 threads Senior Member
    There is nothing wrong with taking a gap year. I know a lot of kids who would probably have had more successful freshman years if they'd taken a little breather before starting college. But I agree with everyone else (surprising unanimity for CC!) that it is much, much easier to apply for colleges while you are a senior. Teachers and guidance counselors retire or disappear. And you don't really have time with just a summer and part of the fall to have significant new accomplishments from a gap year.

    Even 12 applications seem like a lot to me. If you are not chasing merit money I would consider paring the list down even further. Find two safeties you like. Polish the two ED applications to a fare-thee-well and have at most four more matches and/or reaches.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29583 replies58 threads Senior Member
    Gap year doesn’t appear to be the issue. Gap year without applying to colleges would make me pause. I wouldn’t be on board with that
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  • thumper1thumper1 75184 replies3300 threads Senior Member
    edited October 7
    I know you say he is planning to apply to some top schools...but here is an idea. Have him do the University of Alabama application and scholarship applications and submit them...now. His stats would garner him a very early acceptance with pretty significant merit aid. He would hear within a few weeks.

    Application takes about 30 minutes.

    Maybe with one success in the bag, he will feel sufficiently motivated to do other applications.

    At the very least, he will have an affordable acceptance should he decide to go to college in the fall, and doesn’t apply anywhere else.
    edited October 7
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  • compmomcompmom 10823 replies77 threads Senior Member
    I remember the school nurse telling me the seniors were all a mess. Mine certainly were. My son only applied to 4 schools, and he finished before midnight Dec. 31. He did get into an Ivy. He showed almost no interest for months to avoid the stress.

    Cleary your son doesn't feel stressed by the work he is likely to do at college. He is stressed by applications. A gap year to avoid applications is what you are asking about, it seems :)

    I would decrease the number of schools. Maybe make some RD. He can really do fine with 4-6. Stay out of it as much as you can. Help him by doing his chores, stuff like that.

    At one point my son didn't want to visit schools and I said that's fine, I don't care if you go to college. You can stay home and work. I left and when I came back he had done a color-coded schedule!

    So keeping the pressure down, and making the pressure THEIR OWN, can work with some kids.

    A gap year in this situation does not sound like a great idea unless he is burned out in some way, or has a budding mental health issue. If school comes easily and he is interested in a variety of subjects, he will probably love it and this may be jitters,

    They start to realize they are actually leaving, which means leaving family, friends, school, home, room, dog or cat (!). It's big. College is like jumping off a cliff and it should be more of a gentle slope. Help him make it a gentler jump,

    All kinds of things crop up emotionally that they aren't super aware of.

    I think if you help him find ways to reduce the stress of applications, he will be fine. But I don't know him!
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  • MusakParentMusakParent 1022 replies9 threads Senior Member
    I'd try to convince him to apply now and defer if he'd like to do a gap year. He would have time to change his mind. But if he is convinced that is a good idea, I would honor that. I'd consider paring the list down more too if that might help convince him. If you have the finances, he really doesn't need to apply to so many schools. Love thy safety. Pick 2-3 matches and 2-3 reaches and call it a day. You could evaluate which ones require the least extra hoop jumping if he doesn't have clear favorites. That might be a decent compromise. If he really is just one of those kid that tests great and doesn't work hard and that will be a new skill to build, getting into the most rigorous, competitive program might not be the best fit either. I'm sure anything on his list is great.

    If he really doesn't want to apply and won't? Well, I don't know how you force a young adult. They have to want it and own it.

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