Dear Straight Talk: I'm slated to head off to college in August, but I want to take a gap year in South America first. My parents agree in principle, but will freak out if I don’t go to college right away. They worry that I’ll never go to college. I DEFINITELY will go to college after this. How can I make my parents agreeable? — Jeff, Perrysburg, Ohio
Jessie, 20, Eugene, Oregon: These days, many upper-division colleges actually encourage a gap year or a year studying abroad. It gives you real-world experience and looks good to future employers. I wish I had taken one.
Nicole, 22, Grass Valley: I have traveled, solo, to 10-plus countries between semesters of college. It can be done. Tell your parents you can’t fully immerse in college and are worried about poor grades.
Dear Jeff: I highly recommend gap years. I took several, myself, and benefitted greatly. When to take them is an individual decision — and if your parents are helping to fund college, that warrants some weight. On the bright side, having a year of lower-division transfer units under your belt, and being a year older, is advantageous both for solo travel and for thawing parents. If they still balk after this, follow your instincts anyway. Most parents will still help you once you return and are serious about school. — Lauren