Seeking advice

Hello everyone! While I may not be keeping my mind stimulated by taking summer classes such as some of the other bloggers, I have been doing a lot of traveling, which has stimulated my mind in a completely different way. Traveling really makes one aware of all the endless possibilities the world holds, and during my trip I did a lot of contemplating about my plans for the future, more specifically next year. This is where I could use your advice.

On Monday I returned from a three week long trip to Germany and Spain. I flew over alone and visited family (I am half Spanish). While there, my Spanish family proposed that I spend a year in Spain, in between high school and college. My first thought on this was “No way, I’m going to college directly after high school.” This of course has always been my plan, but my Spanish family thinks it is important that I spend a year in Spain to learn the language (I do not speak fluent Spanish), and the culture. Their proposal was that I live with family or on my own, while taking some courses at the local university.

I’ve thought about this a little, and I think the only way I would put off college is if I did it through a gap year program. Although it is not so common in America, many students around the world often take a gap year in between high school and college to live in the country of their choice, while taking courses and learning new things. Many people praise these programs because they feel it opens the mind and teaches one to be more independent before starting college. I feel doing it this way would be much more organized, and it would be more acceptable to colleges (maybe I could defer enrollment). This is a good opportunity I feel, but also a hard decision.

Tell me what you guys think. Is it smarter to start college directly after high school, or will taking a gap year truly “open my mind” and better prepare me for college?


  • Nextset

    A Gap Year is not a problem if you have an opportunity to do something (like this) that you will reflect upon for the rest of your life. The proposed deal here will differentiate you from other candidates for school, grad school, work and marriage from now on. I have relatives (female not male in this case) who did foreign living during ages 19-30 and it opened grand job opportunities and friend/marriage opportunities those who didn’t go never had, and never will have. Take it and run!!! You can’t lose.

    Go ahead and apply for colleges now if you want, inquire about deferred admission. But be sure to take the family’s offer up and GO! Wave your friends goodbye and send postcards.

  • Sue

    Maybe. You have to know yourself. Know what’s good for you, and what’s bad for you.

    I know several people who interrupted their path to college, or part way through college, and never went back to start or finish their degree.

    I also know people (myself included) who just weren’t quite ready at 18 for the independence and responsibilities that went with college. And a year (or four, or ten) later, I/they were grown up enough to go back to school and earn a degree.

    So, what do you think you are likely to do?
    – Take a break and never get back into college.
    – Jump into your college career straight out of high school, and never miss a step.
    – Take some time to find out who you are when you aren’t a student, then go back to college with a better idea of what you want from your education, and how to get it.
    – Maybe you’ll think of other possibilities that I haven’t?

  • Isabel Rodriguez-Vega

    Thanks for the encouragement Nextset!

    And Sue: I think I would definitely get back into school after taking a year off. College has always been a major goal of mine, and I’m already hesitant about putting it off.

    Another concern of mine is financial aid. I’m applying to some pretty expensive schools and I’m worried it will be harder to get financial aid if I take a year off.

  • John


    You can definitely approach this in several different ways. As you begin to finalize the list of schools that you want to apply to, I would look into what their deferral process is. In some cases, deferrals are only offered in extreme scenarios, and you may not be granted one to travel. I would check with the admissions offices of each school you intend to apply.

    In addition, it may be to your benefit to wait a year to apply. The experience of living abroad will give you an extra leg up in the application process, and could also make for an interesting essay topic. If you are applying to highly selective colleges, it definitely could be the one element that distinguishes you from other applicants. I’ve worked in the admissions office of a prestigious liberal arts college, and this kind of experience is always looked on favorably.

    Depending upon the school’s financial aid policy, you will not have any trouble securing financial aid. The formulas used by colleges are based mostly on your parents’ income, so it wouldn’t make a difference if you applied this year or next. However, if you’re counting scholarship money from sources outside of the college, that may be a different scenario.

    One final thought…you will be in a different place than most of your peers when you arrive at college after spending a year abroad. The transition will certainly be easier on you, and you may avoid some of the freshmen year anxiety. You will also most likely be more mature than most of your peers. Just something to consider…

    Good luck!

  • Cranky Teacher

    You will never ever regret spending a year in another country.

    You are clearly not the kind of person who is going to find it hard to go back to college later.

    Go for it.

  • Vicente Jover

    Hi there , my name is Vicente Jover. I lived in Alameda when I was 20 years old, I am from Spain. Actually, going to SFO changed my life. I saw your community college, I went to visit a friend in Oakland and end up becoming friends with an American family. The idea of going back to University started in Alameda.

    It´s been years since I visited a Bay Area newspaper. Today I did it, found you and suggest to take a year off, learn Spanish well and… continue with you life wherever it might be.

    No what ifs….

    Alicante, Spain

  • Isabel Rodriguez-Vega

    Thanks for all your advice. I’ll take it all into consideration when making my decision, and I’ll let you know what I end up doing.

  • Jesse Dutton-Kenny

    But I’ll miss you!