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The Best Time to Enroll in College

As featured in Healthy Living Magazine, March 2011

Whoever said the best time to enroll in college is right out of high school?….think about it. Roughly 10 weeks separate a student graduating from high school to entering their first class as a freshman student. It’s actually not much time is it? Throughout the year many parents ask me if it’s okay for their student to take some time off before they enter college. My answer for many graduating seniors is that they may simply not yet be ready to fully embrace their college experience. Statistics prove this. Many students will never make it to their college graduation.

High school graduation is when questions begin… “What college or university will I attend?” and “Am I attending the college because my friends are? Am I going because it’s what my parents and others expect? Do I dare get off the “college train” to take some time to figure out what I really want to do? These are all good questions, to be explored and discussed. In my college counseling practice I often speak of the importance of finding and maintaining a sense of balance in your world. Encouraging students to explore who they are, what they like or don’t like, will only help to lay the foundation for their success as adults.

A Gap year is an excellent option for your student to consider for that time between graduating from high school and entering college. Getting off the “train” to college and taking the time to volunteer, travel, or work in a setting unfamiliar takes some thinking and a lot of organization. This is a time for a calculated plan of action where the student can step outside the traditional classroom environment to explore not only the world but themselves. Opportunities will present themselves for your student to reflect on their personal values and goals. This Gap year can be when education, service and personal growth are all intertwined. In fact, colleges and universities welcome those students who have chosen the Gap year. Extra time in between high school and college can allow the student to mature, broaden their horizon and give them numerous opportunities to find themselves before they dive into the college experience, often making them more successful students.

In the end, I encourage parents and their students to speak with a college counselor. Take the time to ask those tough questions. Think about what is really “best” for your student, so you can put choices in their proper perspective. Speaking together as a family with a college counselor can also encourage and provide the student a voice in their future. This is after all, their journey and ultimately their choice to succeed or fail. Give them the chance to believe in themselves.

Steve Michaud, owner of Family Pathways College Counseling, is a practicing independent college counselor in Bozeman, MT. Steve has extensive experience with families from coast to coast helping them to navigate post secondary options. Contact Steve: or call 406-570-1178.