I’ve always been a big proponent of starting college directly after high school. My feeling was that taking a hiatus from school would break the student’s stride and would also make them less likely to return to school. I know there are many fans of the “gap year,” but I’ve seen far too many students whose temporary break turned into a permanent thing.
This is especially true in the case of students who get a job which they may need to give up in order to return to school. For a young person who has few (or no) bills, earning even $8 or $10 an hour can seem like a great thing. The thought of giving up that paycheck to sit in a classroom may be tough.
So I really would love to see kids transition seamlessly from high school to college, in a perfect world.
However, I have recently had to rethink my stance on this.
As student loan debt continues to soar out of control, far too many kids enter school before they and their parents have come up with a good plan of how they will pay for it. This will often lead to students signing up for loans without giving sufficient thought as to the obligation they are agreeing to.
As this article says, it may be smart to hold off on heading to school while the family plans out an outline of the best way for them to pay for college. This may involve making some strategic financial moves to increase chances for financial aid, spending more time weighing the best college choice or taking an extra job to save up more for the college fund.
It may also be wise to enroll in a community college for the first two years. This can save you a lot of money, as I discussed in a previous post.
Yes, I still think it’s great to head right off to college—but it’s even better to make smart financial decisions that will put you in the best position for long-term financial well-being.
A good college education is worth the wait.