An Extra Year


The concept of taking an extra year during the course of one’s education is meeting with greater favor now than ever before.  Whether it comes as a repeat year when entering a competitive independent school, a postgraduate year of study, a gap year between high school and college, a year off during college, a year between college and grad school, or in some other form, the extra year provides many advantages and almost no disadvantages to those who choose this terrific option.

In some cases, students who are offered admission to a competitive independent day or boarding school need an extra year to bring them up to speed with a more challenging classroom than they have experienced in prior years. A postgraduate year might be recommended for the student who is not quite ready to enter a university community. A gap year offers a rare opportunity to experience the real world and its many possibilities before the student must make a decision about a major field of study at university. A year between college and grad school provides an occasion for gainful employment before one’s life work – almost always based upon the graduate degree – is written in stone.

The main reason why educational institutions of all types seem to support an extra year for almost every student is twofold: 1) the added time makes the student’s transcript and overall record more impressive, and 2) the extra year adds twelve more months of maturity before tackling the next level of academic challenge. In fact, the only serious impediment to this option tends to come from those parents and students who equate an extra year with flunking or failing.

Obviously, the decision to take an extra year for high school students should come at a time when the student is changing schools, to avoid social stigma. After high school graduation, the extra year is not so much associated with failure as with the commitment to get ahead, to improve one’s standing in a competitive peer group. At many highly competitive schools and colleges, the average age is somewhat higher than at less competitive institutions. This phenomenon can be explained in part by the proliferation of “the extra year” in recent years, but also as the result of the fact that many parents start their children in school later, rather than earlier, beginning in kindergarten. When there is a choice, many families elect to start their kids a year later because ample evidence suggests that an older child in almost any classroom will tend to do better than one who is younger and, therefore, almost certainly less mature.

One last example of the value of an extra year can be found among students with long-undiagnosed learning differences. Often, schools without sufficient resources to manage learning disabilities choose instead to use social promotion as a way to keep kids moving through the system without actually addressing the problems. It is in the later years of high school that academic work becomes more challenging and, at the same time, objective testing can provide glaring evidence of shortfall. In such cases, families may not know there is a need for remediation until the tenth or eleventh grade, too late to make an optimal recovery, but still worth all of the effort that can be mustered.

An extra year, wherever it may fall in one’s educational experience, is overwhelmingly for the good and should be considered seriously as a way to improve personal circumstances. Kids need to stop thinking of this option as flunking, and parents need to rise above the feeling that, somehow, the notion of repeating reveals a fatal defect in the family. It does not. It is the final analysis that matters, the end of a successful academic career that will completely justify the means necessary to get there.

Carter P. Reese                                                             Informed Educational Solutions


This entry was posted in Academic Consultant, Career Planning, Careers, Carter P. Reese, College, College Admissions, community service, Extra Year, jobs, jobs for teens, repeat year, Teen Self-Confidence, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to An Extra Year

  1. Pingback: An Extra Year | Informed Educational Solutions

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