Naturally, many of the letters were from parents worried about the cost of travel. One example:
Great advice in theory, but for some families, like ours, the financial aid consequences can be prohibitive. Our younger son probably would have benefited from a gap year, but when we ran the financial aid calculators, we discovered that it would end up reducing his older brother’s financial aid by about $20,000 and reduce his own financial aid in a few years by about $25,000.
The letter reveals the perverse incentives on debt in the United States. If it’s true, it’s like young people get punished for wanting to travel. Some scholarships and financial aid programs have conditions that dictate students should enroll in college right after high school. By deferring college, you may lose your chances of getting financial aid.
Gap years often involve working abroad to help defray the cost. However, due to America’s immigration policies, many countries have reciprocal policies that prevent U.S. students from easily getting working holiday visas. This sharply reduces the chances of students paying for their gap year by getting jobs overseas.
I realize this is particular to American students. I would love to hear from our readers outside the U.S. on how their countries treat the gap year. In some places, it’s much more encouraged and a normal rite of passage. Friends from England have told me that their student loan repayment schedules are based on income level, not on time. In other words, they don’t have to start paying off their loans until their salaries reach a certain level. This grants more flexibility than how some U.S. student loans are structured, where the repayment starts within months after graduation.
Have you done a gap year? How did you pay for it? Was it a worthwhile experience? Please share your stories in the comments.