If your teenager is talking about taking a year away from the classroom between high school and college, you may have Malia Obama to thank for that. But if they’re not yet talking about whether to follow her lead, they should be.
Taking time off between high school and college or sometime during the undergraduate years, as Ms. Obama is doing before she attends Harvard, has plenty of appeal for high school graduates who don’t know what they want out of college or seek to work, travel or volunteer on the sort of schedule that an academic calendar does not allow.
Parents, however, often worry themselves sick over such talk. While no one wants to drop a six-figure sum on a teenager who doesn’t want to be in school, there are often nagging doubts over whether students who stop for a bit will ultimately get back on track.
Twenty-five years ago, my friend Colin Hall and I tried to dispel those concerns by finding and interviewing as many students who took gap years as we could. We profiled 33 of them in a book called “Taking Time Off,” which was published 20 years ago.