Dear Estelle. My son, Garrett, has recently graduated from high school and is planning to take the year off and start college in the fall, 2007. He has a 3.7 GPA and is interested in attending a school with excellent high tech and/or engineering emphasis. Beyond getting a job in the interim, what are important steps he should be taking to apply to schools he is interested in and hopefully getting at least some scholarship help for the cost of his tuition? Keith, Littleton, CO
You have included several questions in your request and I shall address each as concretely as possible. First of all, a question for you. Has he applied to colleges for this fall and deferred or will he begin the application process this coming year? My recommendation to students who want to do a “gap” year is to complete the college application process before requesting a deferral. Most colleges are amenable. If the latter, however, he can utilize the time off to do some extensive research and career exploration to narrow his list of schools to a manageable number. What has piqued his interest in high tech and engineering? There are numerous engineering programs. Admissions is very competitive at some of the elite schools like Berkeley. Visiting schools is an excellent idea, especially when they are in session.
Garret has a strong GPA. What classes has he taken in math and science to indicate his interest in high tech and engineering, both fields requiring heavy concentrations in these areas? Would he benefit from an upper level math class at a local community college or university? What about his ACT and SAT scores? Do they match the level of his GPA? Can he secure an internship in some phase of high tech or engineering. You requested information about application deadlines. For Garrett, they will be the same as high school seniors who are looking at similar programs.
Scholarships will be dependent upon the schools where he applies. If he is not a minority student, exemplary grades and test scores would be a benefit in securing scholarships. Garrett would definitely benefit from the assistance of a college planner in sorting out the opportunities and requirements for the coming year. Taking a “Gap Year” has become popular nowadays but it’s important for your son not to waste the time without purpose and a plan. This is a terrific time to go into the engineering field. With globalization being a hot ticket, the job opportunities are abundant.