“Advice for the college-bound: Wait” – Washington Post

“Ultimately, the gap year could put private consultants like me out of business.” – Gwyeth Smith, a celebrated college admissions consultant

Over the weekend an article by Gwyeth Smith, a legendary guidance counselor turned admissions consultant, ran in the Washington Post advocating for high school seniors to take time off before attending college.  Over the years Mr. Smith has seen student after student focus on GPA’s and SAT’s to get into the best colleges in the country and then plunge into pre-med or engineering only to find that 4 years later they don’t want to be a doctor or an engineer.  In addition, they have on average $23,200 of student loan debt, with many having much more!

As a private college consultant, Mr. Smith now says that he is advocating for a gap-year for a majority of the students he works with.  During their “13th year,” he says that students have the space to pursue their interests and learn more about what they might want to study before entering college.  This is a marked shift from earlier in his (4-decade) career when he only recommended a gap year to students who needed to mature:  “But in this wheezing economy, when jobs are precious and even state colleges are increasingly expensive, I have become a believer in the educational and financial benefits of taking a breather.”

Mr. Smith then goes further to push for a gap year that has clear learning objectives and some level of structure:

“The son of Reed President Colin Diver took a year to learn carpentry. H. Keith H. Brodie, a psychiatrist and president emeritus of Duke University, told me recently that he believes freshmen who delay college for a year tend to be more altruistic and empathetic because brain development continues into late adolescence. He advocates gapping so long as students have a mentor, a plan for intellectual growth and a commitment to do public service.”