Have you ever seen a 20 year old Freshman? Most people have not. For those who have seen one, you've probably noticed a significant difference. For starters, there's a physical difference. If the student is an athlete, it means she/he is likely bigger, stronger or faster. So what does that mean for a student emotionally and academically? Pretty similar! A student who is more academically and emotionally equipped to handle the rigor of college.
"Mind the Gap (Year)" would leverage that year of development to allow students the opportunity to grow into the role of student. It would provide them with a year away from the classroom, and it could provide them with some truly needed perspective about the importance and role that college will play in their future. This program would work in three phases.
1- School Districts would play a role in helping students develop a plan for their "Gap Year." Districts might go as far as placing students into local work-study programs or travel-study programs, and might also use those "graduate resources" to provide support for the school community as tutors and mentors for younger district students. Providing some direct support for a student to become more attuned to where he/she is heading, what their interests are, and how that could benefit them moving forward could add an entirely different perspective to a guidance department and a deeper connection with graduates.
2- Colleges and Universities would support future students in two ways. First, by providing students with "overview" materials so that graduates might pre-screen the texts and courses that they will see as Freshman and Sophomores. A student entering a technical school might be provided online resources about computer science while a liberal arts school could provide an incoming Freshman with a "pre-reading list"
Colleges would also support future students by hosting them on campus throughout the year for "extended orientation." Several trips to the campus throughout the year would give future students a better opportunity to become familiar with the school and what it has to offer within, and outside of, the classroom.
3- Local/State Government would provide support for "Gap Students" with support by helping to fund this program in a similar way as it supports pre-school programs.
There is a reason every college sports announcer notes whether an athlete has "red-shirted." It's because that student is viewed to be at an advantage because she/he is older, and perhaps more capable. She's not a Freshman, she's a "Red Shirt Freshman. "A "post-school program" will give graduates an opportunity to take a step into the world and Red Shirt at an important time in their academic and emotional development.
By providing the graduate with a "Gap Year," we would allow them the opportunity to see the positive and negative aspects of work and travel as well as give them the additional time to grow into the freedom, responsibility and other traits necessary for success with higher education and adulthood.