Growing trend of gap year before college

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Is a gap year right for your child?

The announcement that Malia Obama would take a gap year before going to Harvard has sparked an interesting conversation about delaying the start of college.

“For the right kid, it's a great opportunity,” George Rubenstein, a counselor to 12th-grade students at High Point Central, said.

Rubenstein says it depends on the student and what is being done during that gap year.

Omar Benallal, a senior at High Point Central, says his study abroad trip to Mexico last summer played a major role in his decision to take a gap year.

“I really wanted to extend upon that opportunity to learn more, to learn about different cultures, to learn another language,” he said.

Benallal will use his gap year to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s National Security Language Initiative for Youth to participate in its Arabic program in Morocco.

Initially, his parents had mixed feelings on delaying college to participate.

“My mother and my father had a few different attitudes toward it,” he said.

For his mother, safety was a concern as well as how it would impact Benallal’s full scholarship to Duke University.

Rubenstein explains that part of making a gap year work is seeing how colleges feel about it.

“And they're OK with you taking that year off and there's a lot of communication with the family, I think that's the only way something like this is going to work,” he said.

He also mentioned that families should consider if a gap year falls in line with their timetable to have children graduate from college or if they financially afford a gap year.

Programs similar to Benallal’s can come with expenses.

However, both Benallal’s gap year experience and education at Duke have been funded through scholarships.

Say Yes Guilford explained that a gap year would not jeopardize receiving scholarship money.

“The deal with Say Yes is they just need to make sure they are enrolled in college within a year after they graduate from high school,” Donnie Turlington, director of communications for Say Yes Guilford, said.

Duke was fine with Benallal taking a gap year.

Benallal says after speaking with school counselors and learning more about what his gap year experience has to offer, his parents are comfortable with his decision too.

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